Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE)

The Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE Scenario) is a normative scenario that shows a pathway for the global energy sector to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, with advanced economies reaching net zero emissions in advance of others. This scenario also meets key energy-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular universal energy access by 2030 and major improvements in air quality. It is consistent with limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 °C (with at least a 50% probability), in line with emissions reductions assessed in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Sixth Assessment Report.

The 2023 Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario:

  • Describes a pathway for the global energy sector to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 by deploying a wide portfolio of clean energy technologies, without offsets from land-use measures. Decisions about technology deployment driven by costs, technology maturity, market conditions, available infrastructure and policy preferences.
  • Prioritises an orderly transition that aims to safeguard energy security through strong and co-ordinated policies and incentives that enable all actors to anticipate the rapid changes required, and to minimise energy market volatility and stranded assets. Rapid deployment of clean energy technologies and energy efficiency is at the core of this transition. The NZE Scenario is underpinned by detailed analysis of project lead times for minerals supplies and clean energy technologies as part of efforts to ensure the feasibility of the deployment. There is, however, inevitably a risk of bottlenecks emerging for some technologies, which underscores the importance of measures to enhance material reuse and recycling and to drive down the material intensity of clean energy technologies.
  • Recognises that achieving net zero energy sector CO2 emissions by 2050 depends on fair and effective global co-operation. The pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 is very narrow. All countries will need to contribute to deliver the desired outcomes; advanced economies take the lead and reach net zero emissions earlier in the NZE Scenario than emerging market and developing economies. Global access to electricity and clean cooking is achieved by 2030 in line with established SDGs. Rapid and major reductions in methane emissions from the oil, gas and coal sectors help to buy some time for less abrupt CO2 reductions in emerging market and developing economies. Global collaboration facilitates the development and adoption of ambitious policies, drives down clean technology costs, and scales up diverse and resilient global supply chains for critical minerals and clean energy technologies. Enhanced financial support to emerging market and developing economies plays a critical part in this collaboration.

There are many possible paths to achieve net zero CO2 emissions globally by 2050 and many uncertainties that could affect any of those pathways; the NZE Scenario is therefore a path, and not the path to net zero emissions.

In recent years, the energy sector has been responsible for around three-quarters of GHG emissions globally. Achieving net zero energy-related CO2 emissions by 2050 in the NZE Scenario does not rely on action beyond the energy sector, but limiting climate change would require such action. We therefore additionally examine the reductions in CO2 emissions from land use that would be commensurate with the transformation of the energy sector in the NZE Scenario, working in co-operation with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).