The last couple of weeks have brought a steady stream of new pledges to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within the next handful of decades. China committed to it; so did Walmart Inc. And yet a report released last month by the International Energy Agency, which advises governments on energy policy, estimated that roughly half of the technologies that will be needed to get us to net zero globally by 2050 aren’t even commercially available yet. Yikes.
The dirty secret of deep decarbonization is that it won’t occur from just plugging into a wind farm or buying carbon offsets in a tropical forest. Without new technologies, it will be impossible to rein in emissions from the most-carbon intensive sectors of the economy such as heavy industry and long-distance transport.