The global push to reach net-zero emissions and meet the world’s future energy needs will cost trillions of dollars and require far more than renewable technologies, according to energy executives.

“We’re still at that very early phase where we make these grand pronouncements and we’ve tried to jumpstart the machine without fully understanding, communally, the economics and all of that,” said Societe Generale’s Karl Pettersen, chief sustainability officer for the Americas.

Who pays for decarbonization and how best to achieve it are the energy transition’s fundamental questions, panelists said late last month at the North American Gas Forum in Washington, DC. 

“Today, we still don’t have an answer to who actually pays for this,” Pettersen added. “Markets...