Net-Zero Emissions

A race to zero ─ accelerating clean energy transitions

Aerial View Of Wind Turbines

The IEA is leading calls for sustainable and resilient economic recoveries from the Covid-19 crisis at a time when ambition for global climate action is rising. An increasing number of countries are making net zero pledges, leading to a global realignment of energy and climate goals.

Energy is at the heart of the global climate dialogue ─ The climate challenge is essentially an energy challenge. With that in mind, policy makers around the world are seeking to reduce climate risks, accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies, ensure an orderly transition toward clean new energy industries, enable inclusion and fairness, and maintain energy security.

Net zero targets have to quickly turn into real-world action ─ To reach our long-term climate goals, action must start now. Governments need to move fast to implement policies that can put global emissions into sustained decline in the coming years. This requires data-driven analysis and recommendations for effective energy policy-making ─ and to ensure greater transparency and accountability.

As the global leader on accelerating clean energy transitions, the IEA is committed to helping countries around the world reach international energy and climate goals. We are working to support government action and will publish the first comprehensive roadmap for the global energy sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

This major piece of analysis, Net Zero in 2050: A roadmap for the global energy sector, will set out a pathway for what is needed from governments, companies, investors and citizens to put emissions on a path in line with a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The roadmap will help decision-makers to prioritise urgent action ahead of the COP26 negotiations in Glasgow in November, under the presidency of the United Kingdom. It will be released on 18 May.

To help lift ambition this year, top international energy and climate leaders from the world’s largest economies will take part in the IEA-COP26 Net Zero Summit on 31 March to accelerate the momentum behind clean energy. The Net Zero Summit will focus on how governments can work together more effectively to ensure long-term net zero targets are translated into concrete action in the run-up to COP26.

Co-hosted by IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol and COP26 President Alok Sharma, the Net Zero Summit is a critical milestone on the road to COP26 in Glasgow in November. The Summit will include a dynamic dialogue between the world’s major economies, which are also large emitters, with the participation of US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry, Chinese Special Envoy on Climate Change Xie Zhenhua, European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Indian Minister of Power, New and Renewable Energy Raj Kumar Singh.

The Net Zero Summit also features a series of Ministerial Panels to address key issues for global clean energy transitions:

  • Ensuring People-Centred Transitions
  • Catalysing Near-Term Implementation
  • Accelerating Technology and Innovation by Sector
  • Mobilising Clean Energy Investment 

In parallel, the IEA will continue to advance work to help countries ensure an inclusive and resilient global energy system. A new high-level global commission headed by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark is bringing together government leaders, ministers and prominent thinkers to explore how best to empower citizens to benefit from the opportunities and navigate the disruptions resulting from clean energy transitions.

The new commission, Our Inclusive Energy Future, will consider the social and economic impacts on individuals and communities, as well as issues of affordability and fairness, with the aim of putting people at the heart of clean energy transitions. The commission’s meetings will be chaired by Danish Climate, Energy and Utilities Minister Dan Jørgensen, and co-chaired by Senegalese Petroleum and Energy Minister Sophie Gladima. They will result in key recommendations in advance of COP26.

Key findings

Change in CO2 emissions by fuel, 1990-2020


Global energy-related CO2 emissions were 2% higher in December 2020 than in the same month a year earlier, according to IEA data, driven by economic recovery and a lack of clean energy policies. The Covid-19 crisis in 2020 triggered the largest annual drop in global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions since the Second World War, according to IEA data, but the overall decline of about 6% masks wide variations depending on the region and the time of year. After hitting a low in April, global emissions rebounded strongly and rose above 2019 levels in December. The latest data show that global emissions were 2%, or 60 million tonnes, higher in December 2020 than they were in the same month a year earlier. Major economies led the resurgence as a pick-up in economic activity pushed energy demand higher and significant policies measures to boost clean energy were lacking. Many economies are now seeing emissions climbing above pre-crisis levels.