Governments must step up investment in low-carbon hydrogen to unlock its potential and help the world achieve net zero emissions, with $1.2 trillion needed by 2030, the International Energy Agency said Monday.
Governments with hydrogen strategies have committed $37 billion so far, while the private sector has announced $300 billion, said the IEA, which advises developed countries on energy policies.
Only three countries -- France, Japan and South Korea -- had hydrogen strategies in 2019, but 17 do now and 20 others are working on one, the IEA said in its Global Hydrogen Review for 2021.
There are pilot projects to produce steel and chemicals with low-carbon hydrogen, the report noted.
The technology also has potential in other sectors where emissions are difficult to reduce, including long-haul trucking, shipping and aviation, the agency said.
"We have experienced false starts before with hydrogen, so we can't take success for granted," said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.
"But this time, we are seeing exciting progress in making hydrogen cleaner, more affordable and more available for use across different sectors of the economy," he said.
Birol urged governments to "take rapid actions to lower the barriers that are holding low-carbon hydrogen back from faster growth, which will be important if the world is to have a chance of reaching net zero emissions by 2050."
Nearly all hydrogen produced today comes from fossil fuels and releases 900 million tonnes of CO2 emissions -- as much as Britain and Indonesia combined, according to the IEA.
Low-carbon hydrogen requires large amounts of electricity to produce it from water, or the use of carbon-capture technologies if it is to be made from fossil fuels, it said.
"The main obstacle to the extensive use of low-carbon hydrogen is the cost of producing it," the report said.
The report comes as governments prepare for the COP26 climate summit in Scotland next month.