Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE)

The Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE) is a normative IEA 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 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular by achieving 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 no or limited temperature overshoot (with a 50% probability), in line with reductions assessed in the IPCC in its Sixth Assessment Report.  

There are many possible paths to achieve net zero CO2 emissions globally by 2050 and many uncertainties that could affect any of them; the NZE Scenario is therefore a path, not the path to net zero emissions. Much depends, for example, on the pace of innovation in new and emerging technologies, the extent to which citizens are able or willing to change behaviour, the availability of sustainable bioenergy and the extent and effectiveness of international collaboration. The Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario is built on the following principles: 

  • The uptake of all the available technologies and emissions reduction options is dictated by costs, technology maturity, policy preferences, and market and country conditions. 
  • All countries co-operate towards achieving net zero emissions worldwide. This involves all countries participating in efforts to meet the net zero goal, working together in an effective and mutually beneficial way, and recognising the different stages of economic development of countries and regions, and the importance of ensuring a just transition.  
  • An orderly transition across the energy sector. This includes ensuring the security of fuel and electricity supplies at all times, minimising stranded assets where possible and aiming to avoid volatility in energy markets. 

In recent years, the energy sector was responsible for around three-quarters of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Achieving net zero energy-related and industrial process CO2 emissions by 2050 in the NZE Scenario does not rely on action in areas other than the energy sector, but limiting climate change does 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 cooperation with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).