To stay on-track with the path to net zero emissions by 2050, a major boost will have to be seen across all technologies in addition to further support from the financial sector, said Samantha McCulloch, Head of Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage Technology at the International Energy Agency (IEA) today (7th September) during carbon capture conference ‘Delivering on COP26: CCS across the world’.

Following the IEA’s release of its road map for the global energy sector to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, it has become apparent that a huge effort will have to be made by all industries to achieve the more than 400 global-level milestones laid out in the road map.

Revealing that over four billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) will need to be captured globally by 2035, McCulloch put this into perspective by stating that only 40 million tonnes of CO2 is being captured today.

“By 2050, when we’re reaching net zero, more than 7.6 billion tonnes of CO2 is captured,” she said, referring to the IEA’s roadmap. “This is obviously a very ambitious scale-up that really does reflect the challenges and the opportunities that are inherent in this net zero pathway.”

“So we would need a major boost here across all technologies,” she added.

McCulloch also explained that, just in the period to 2030, energy efficiency improvements would have to be implemented at a rate that’s three times faster than what has been seen in the past two decades.

To reach its targets, an immediate acceleration in the roll out of carbon capture projects will have to be undertaken. Carbon capture is being applied across many sectors including fuel transformation, power generation, heavy industry and technology such as direct air capture (DAC).

According to the road map, most of the growth in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) comes from low carbon hydrogen production in the period to 2030 and power sector retrofits. Post-2030 will see heavy industry CCUS growing by more than one third.

With funding requirements growing in the period to 2050 and more carbon having to be captured, McCulloch recognised that a massive increase in average annual clean energy investments will have to be made.

“These investments overall in clean energy would triple to around five trillion dollars a year by 2030,” she added.

In the IEA’s sustainable development scenario, net zero is reached in 2070 and sees investment (more than half of which goes into advanced economies) increasing to an average of more than $50bn per year by 2030 from around $1bn today.

As investments increase in various technologies and economies, including those in China, the average annual investment for a net zero-by-2050 pathway would reach almost $80bn globally for CCUS.

McCulloch made it clear that financial support, including a focus on greater private investment, will have to be made readily available. “This will require improved access to all types of finance for CCUS, including debt finance, as well as support from climate and development finance organisations in the case of emerging markets,” she said.

With more than 40 CCUS projects already announced this year, McCulloch sees CCUS gaining significant momentum, implying that the technology has seen a ‘rejuvenated narrative’.

Details of the event, entitled ’Delivering on COP26: CCS across the world’, hosted by the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Centre (UKCCSRC), can be found here.