More than 130 countries have set or are considering a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Achieving net-zero on a global scale, however, requires $125 trillion in climate investment by 2050, according to research commissioned by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
While that level of investment hasn’t been achieved yet, it’s ramping up. In 2021, the world spent $755 billion on deploying low-carbon energy technologies, up 27% from the year prior.
China invests more in energy transition than US or Europe
The top 10 countries together invested $561 billion in the energy transition, nearly three-fourths of the world total.
China increased its overall energy transition investment by 60% from 2020 levels, further cementing its position as a global leader.
China invested 35.2% of the world’s total energy transition investment, more than double (2.3 times) that of the US, and one-fifth more than the total invested by European countries (1.2 times).
The country’s wind and solar capacity increased by 19% in 2021, with electrified transport also accounting for a large portion of the investment.
Next, the U.S. invested $114 billion in clean energy last year, up 17% from 2020. Several European countries also made the top 10 list, with Germany, U.K., and France rounding out the top five. In total, European countries invested $219 billion in the energy transition.
Which low-carbon technologies are attracting investment?
While the top 10 countries provide an overview of where investments are being made, it’s also interesting to see which sectors are seeing the biggest influxes of capital.
Renewables accounted for nearly 50% of total investment in 2021. However, electrified transport drove much of the growth as several countries charged ahead in the shift to electric vehicles.
Nuclear power also racked up roughly $32 billion in investments, as conviction grows that it can deliver reliable, carbon-free electricity. But the biggest overall percentage gain was seen in sustainable materials including recycling and bioplastics, which saw investment activity more than double in 2021, following which the biggest growth year on year was in electrified transport and hydrogen.
Here’s a breakdown of energy transition investment by sector in 2021:
VC Elements, February 5, 2022. https://elements.visualcapitalist.com/ranked-the-top-10-countries-by-energy-transition-investment/
BloombergNEF, January 2022. https://assets.bbhub.io/professional/sites/24/Energy-Transition-Investment-Trends-Exec-Summary-2022.pdf