CO2 emissions: future income and energy efficiency as key drivers

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How to combine economic growth and sustainability? The answers of a study published on Nature Climate Change, with the CMCC contribution by Giacomo Marangoni, Massimo Tavoni and Valentina Bosetti.

Variation in projected long-term CO2 emissions mostly driven by future income and energy efficiency.
It’s one of the main result of the study “Sensitivity of projected long-term CO2 emissions across the Shared and Socioeconomic Pathways” recently published on Nature Climate Change (among the authors, the CMCC Foundation’s researchers Giacomo Marangoni, Massimo Tavoni, Valentina Bosetti of ECIP Division).
Moreover, economic growth and energy intensity are found to be the most important determinants of future CO2 emission across different socio-economic pathways (Shared Socio-Economic Pathways – SSPs, see here) defined by the international scientific community.

“The results” – explains Giacomo Marangoni, researcher at the CMCC Foundation and leader of the study “clearly point to income and energy efficiency as key determinants of future emissions. Projected population seems to matter less in determining future emissions. Fossil fuel and low carbon resources rank in between. These results tend to hold across models, over different time horizons, and also in the presence of a climate policy. The different drivers interact: for example a richer world will lead to lower emission increase if it is a sustainable one, and vice versa. Neglecting these interactions would lead to inaccurate sensitivity rankings”.

Bringing together 6 different energy-economy-climate models from 6 different European research institutes, the study has decomposed the sensitivity of future long-term CO2 emissions to their major drivers: population, income, energy intensity, fossil resources availability, and low carbon technologies development. The research has evaluated the impacts of each of the above-mentioned drivers in isolation as well as in interaction with the others. The study has confronted 3 possible future worlds, as delineated by Shared Socio-Economic Pathways: a sustainable, middle of the road and challenging world. These scenarios represent baseline assumptions with increasing challenges to mitigating and adapting to climate change.

“Economic growth is a political priority and is needed, especially in emerging and developing economies”, said Massimo Tavoni, researcher at the CMCC Foundation and co-author of the study. “But there are policies which can make this objective compatible with lower emissions: energy efficiency and disincentives to fossil resources, especially coal, are high priorities. The alternative of high climate change would be far worse.”

Therefore, the study helps us thinking about how climate change can be solved while supporting in prioritizing climate policy research, suggesting that modelling and policy communities could benefit from shifting part of their attention from the traditional energy-supply domain also to elements like energy efficiency and economic wellbeing.

For more information, please read the integral version of the paper:

G. Marangoni, M. Tavoni, V. Bosetti, E. Borgonovo, P. Capros, O. Fricko, D. E. H. J. Gernaat, C. Guivarch, P. Havlik, D. Huppmann, N. Johnson, P. Karkatsoulis, I. Keppo, V. Krey, E. Ó Broin, J. Price, D. P. van Vuuren,“Sensitivity of projected long term CO2 emissions across the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways”, Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/nclimate3199

Source: FEEM

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