TIME 2030
Fatih Birol, executive director, IEA
Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images
Ideas
October 1, 2021 6:30 AM EDT
Birol is the executive director of the International Energy Agency.

Scientists tell us that if we want to have a livable planet in coming decades, then emissions need to come down to net zero by 2050. As around three-quarters of the emissions that cause climate change come from energy, we at the International Energy Agency have turned this net-zero target into a road map for the energy sector. What needs to happen? We have described more than 400 milestones: for example, in 2030, 60% of cars sold should be electric vehicles, compared with 5% today. By 2040, half of all flights should be using sustainable fuels and the world needs to have phased out all coal and oil power plants where emissions aren’t captured.

Read More: China Is Planning to Build 43 New Coal-Fired Power Plants. Can It Still Keep Its Promises to Cut Emissions?

If we do these things, are we sure we will keep the global temperature rise to 1.5ºC? The answer is, I’m not sure. But, even if we don’t succeed entirely, if we do our best and follow this road map, we will still help avoid the worst of climate change. If we cannot reach 1.5º, then 1.6º or 1.7º is still far better than 3.5º, where the consequences for our planet will be catastrophic. This is a race, not between countries, but a race against time. —As told to Justin Worland

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