Half of the technology needed to reach emissions targets doesn’t exist yet, world leaders have heard, as they were warned that the “data doesn’t match the rhetoric” at a US-led climate summit.
Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said that ambitious new promises made by countries at this week’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate needed to be backed up by action.
“It is clear that the level of commitment to fight climate change has never been higher. This is excellent news, but I will be blunt. Commitments alone are not enough. We need real change in the real world.
“Right now the data does not match the rhetoric, and the gap is getting wider and wider. Our latest estimates for global emissions in 2021, this year, are a warning for humanity.
“Emissions are on track for their second largest increase in history. We are not recovering from Covid in a sustainable way and we remain on a path for dangerous levels of global warming,” he said.
Analysis by the IEA shows that 45 per cent of progress to reaching net zero emissions in 2050, a pledge made by countries including the UK as part of climate goals, will need to come from technologies that are not yet ready for market.
The problem “calls for massive leaps in innovation across batteries, hydrogen, synthetic fuels, carbon capture and many other technologies,” Dr Birol added, calling it a “Herculean task” .
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said: “It’s a stunning statistic to think that 45 per cent of the emissions reduction we need to achieve must come from technologies that aren’t fully developed today. It’s really a call to action.”
Earlier in the conference the US pledged to cut the cost of hydrogen by 80 per cent by 2030. The gas has been touted as a green replacement for jet fuel and natural gas used in boilers , but is currently energy-intensive and expensive to produce.
Electrolysis, which uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, is currently a small part of the production market, with most hydrogen coming from fossil fuels.
Scientists aim to use excess power from energy sources such as nuclear and wind to make this process cleaner.
Researchers are also exploring other methods such as harnessing energy from microbes or using solar energy to extract hydrogen from water molecules.
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