“Deep Decarbonization” The Way Forward?

DDPP_Digit-1_cover1The “Deep Decarbonization Project” (DDP) is convened under the auspices of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations. The Project seeks to develop scenarios for individual countries and the globe to transition to a low-carbon economy that limits increases in global mean surface temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The DDP’s latest report’s Executive Summary would be an excellent reading for a module on long-term responses to climate change. The full 232-page report would be worth checking out also; among other things, it includes chapters on decarbonization scenarios for 15 selected countries, both Annex I and non-Annex I. These materials would be particularly valuable in classes that engage in climate negotiations exercises where students are assigned to represent individual countries.

Among the key findings in the Executive Summary:

  1.  Decarbonization initiatives in developing countries will ultimately need to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication;
  2. To attain a likely (higher than two-thirds) chance of avoiding passing the 2C threshold will require limiting global cumulative emissions in the range of 550-1300 gigatons by 2050; if we exclude potential “negative emissions,” such as from bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (BECCS) or direct air capture, the projected CO2 budget in 2050 is 825 gigatons;
  3. The world is currently on a trajectory for temperature increases of 3.7-4.8C, with the range extending from 2.5-7.8 by the end of the century if one takes into account climate uncertainties.  This is based on emissions growth of 35 gigatons annually currently;
  4. Currently, the quantified targets (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs) outlined by the Parties to the UNFCCC “are not derived from an assessment of what will be needed to stay within the 2C limit;”
  5. The “three pillars” of decarbonization of energy systems include energy efficiency and conservation, decarbonization of electricity generation through replacement of fossi fuel systems with renewable energy, nuclear energy, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) systems;
  6. The most challenging sector in terms of decarbonization efforts is freight and industry; some potential solutions include improved boiler efficiency, CCS, and improved propulsion technologies;
  7. Many of the technologies that will likely prove critical for achieving decarbonization goals will are not technologically mature and will require sustained funding and active collaboration between the government, academic and business sectors/

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