Climate Change: World must almost double investment to US$9.2 trillion a year to hit Paris Agreement goals, says McKinsey

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The world will need to invest US$9.2 trillion a year in the infrastructure of the sectors most prone to carbon dioxide emissions in the coming three decades if the Paris Agreement’s climate goal is to be reached, according to McKinsey.

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The projected expenditure for a successful economic transition to cope with climate change is much higher than the US$5.7 trillion spent each year currently by the power, manufacturing, transport, buildings, agriculture and forestry sectors, said the global business consultancy.

“While the transition would create opportunities, sectors with high-emissions products or operations – which generate about 20 per cent of global gross domestic product – would face substantial effects on demand, production costs, and employment,” it warned in a new report on Wednesday.

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The additional spending needed is equivalent to half of global corporate profits, a quarter of total tax revenue or 7 per cent of household spending in 2020. An additional US$1 trillion currently spent on high-emissions infrastructure would need to be reallocated to ones with a lower carbon footprint.

This transition could result in the creation of some 200 million new jobs, including 8 million in low-emission energy production. However, it could also lead to the loss of 185 million existing jobs, including 13 million in the fossil fuel sector.

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McKinsey said the study examined the sectors producing 85 per cent of global carbon emissions and assessed economic shifts across 69 countries.

It simulated and estimated the economic transformation and societal adjustments associated with reaching the global goal of net-zero carbon emission by the middle of this century, based on climate scenarios modelled by the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS).

Net-zero is required for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2100, so that the worst climate change affects predicted by scientists can be averted.

The NGFS is a network of 83 central banks and financial regulators that aims to accelerate the scaling up of green finance by providing policy guidance on climate risk management.

According to the McKinsey study, transition towards net-zero by mid-century would see the global average electricity cost rise some 25 per cent to a peak in 2040 from 2020 levels, and then decline by around 16 per cent by 2050.

That is because of the need to build and operate the many low-carbon power plants and reliable, low-cost power grids needed to meet rising electricity demand as fossil fuel is gradually phased out, especially in the transport sector.

McKinsey estimated that net-zero transition would see the cost of steel production rise by 30 per cent and that of cement by 45 per cent, as new processes are installed to meet more stringent emission requirements.

China, which produces and consumes around half the global total of both commodities, will have to do the heavy lifting in decarbonising these industries.

Last month, Beijing issued a policy directive seeking to cap the production capacity of major raw materials such as crude steel and cement by 2025.

It ordered the energy consumption per tonne of steel to be reduced by 2 per cent by 2025, and that of cement to be cut by 3.7 per cent.

“In the next three years, the steel sector will be required to achieve peak carbon emissions, and the worst emitting firms are expected to soon have to buy carbon credits from less carbon-intensive peers,” a Huabao Securities research report said this month. “This will further raise the production costs of high-emitting companies.”

The steel industry can cut its carbon emissions by 30 per cent by improving the energy efficiency of existing production processes, and shifting more production to less carbon-intensive electric arc furnaces that contributed only 10 per cent of the industry’s output in 2019, the report’s authors reckoned.

Zero-emission hydrogen and carbon capture are promising future solutions for the steel sector to reach deep or even full decarbonisation, but major technological breakthroughs are needed to lower the costs and achieve commercialisation, they added.

Steel smelting contributes some 15 per cent of China’s carbon dioxide emissions.

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