Deep Decarbonization Pathways: Country Case Studies IV

Lessons for the Global Agreement on Climate Change at COP21 in Paris in 2015

I’d like to draw some conclusions from the results of the deep decarbonization pathways project. But also from the very process of the project for the official this time, international negotiations and the agreement to be reached in Paris at COP21 in December 2015. So what are these lessons?

Well in essence what the results and also the approach of the DDPP revealed is the critical importance of preparing these country-level deep Decarbonization pathways to 2050.

741These pathways and the discussion of their results, the discussion of their assumptions are essential tools for learning and problem-solving. This process is absolutely fundamental to developing a long-term vision for deep decarbonization and shaping the expectations of the different countries, the businesses, the investors about what are really the future development opportunities?

It really affords a unique opportunity to work together as we’ve done as part of the project. But we now hope this is going to become an issue for the real world. An opportunity to work together across countries to map out how the global 2-degree limits can be operationalized because we have it, but it needs to be made real and achieved at the country level.

More precisely it, it also highlights the need to introduce what I called long-term backcasting into the scope of the climate negotiations preparing COP21. Because as we have already pointed out, unfortunately the current focus of the negotiations is, is primarily and, and in fact almost exclusively on mitigation targets in the relatively short-term, maybe for the year 2030.

Some countries are even suggesting that the focus should be on 2025 emission reduction targets. Yet, as I hope we made clear through this lecture, if countries do not work with a longer-term time horizon in mind and, and backcast from this long-term target, they’re likely to adopt strategies that fall short of what is needed to stay below the 2-degree limit. So almost by its structure, by definition if you want, the current incremental approach will fail to consider the deep systemic changes that are needed and, and the key technologies that are still pre-commercial but that need to be developed to reach the long-term goal.

Surprisingly and, and to be frank, also quite shockingly, very few countries so far have developed such long-term deep decarbonization pathways which means that very few of them have looked seriously at what it means for them to stay within the 2-degree limit. Since Copenhagen, in 2009 and a year after that, Cancun in 2010, all the large emitting countries have adopted quantified targets to reduce their greenhouse gases emissions by the year 2020.

But these targets and I want to say that sometimes they have to be backed by concrete policy action plans, because it’s not always the case, but even more profoundly than that, these targets are collectively insufficient to put the world on a trajectory that would be consistent with the 2-degree limit.

In fact, most of the 2020 emission reduction targets that were adopted in, in Copenhagen in 2009 were framed as either incremental deviation from business-as-usual trends or rather small reductions in the carbon intensity of GD, or rather modest decrease in absolute emissions compared to a given base here most of the time in 1990. But by and large, these country targets were not even derived from an assessment of what is needed simply to stay within the 2-degree limit. So it should really not come as a surprise that their widely insufficient to limit global warming below 2-degrees Celsius, but if we want to succeed and to be frank, simply if we want to be internally consistent, if we want to have country targets that are consistent with the global goal, then we need to adopt a completely different approach to the climate negotiations on the run-up to Paris in December 2015.

742To conclude, I’d like to say that at least two new elements will need to be part of the global deal at COP21 in Paris. And they certainly do not cover the full scope of the agreement, in particular the need to provide adequate support, all different types of support, financial, technological and capacity building to the countries that need it to undertake the necessary mitigation and adaptation actions, in particular the poor and vulnerable countries. But I want to emphasize these two new dimensions as I think an essential component to the success of the global negotiations in Paris.

  1. First, we need a shared global commitment that each country will develop and, and make publicly available a deep decarbonization pathway to 2050 that is consistent with the 2-degree limit, but also with country and national circumstances. These pathways to 2050 as opposed to the targets by 2025 or 2030 do not necessarily have to be binding. I mean it’s not the main point of having them. They should be predicated on a shared commitment to the 2-degree limit, but also to all the aspects of the global cooperation that will be needed to achieve it in some countries, in particular the poor countries including the technology cooperation, financial support, the policy cooperation. But it’s really very important that every country has one and has one soon because it’s the only way to explore how you can make your economic growth, your development pathway consistent with our global objective of avoiding dangerous climate change. So that’s the first element, pathways to 2050 for each and every country.
  2. The second element is that we need an absolutely massive and, and sustained global public-private effort to develop, demonstrate and, and diffuse many new low carbon technologies which we discussed and are not yet technically mature or competitive but yet are absolutely key to the success of deep decarbonization strategies. They will need to be made available to all countries, so technology cooperation mechanisms, but also fund will have to be established to this purpose. But it’s also very important that businesses and governments, the national science funds for example commit to real money this time and serious action to develop these new technologies.

By the time we record this course, we have already published the interim 2014 report of the deep decarbonization pathways project. The report was received by the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. We launched the interim report at a press conference in the U.N. headquarters on July 8 of 2014.

We’ve also submitted the report to the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, who will be the president of the COP21 in Paris. And we have started to discuss about the project with many different people across the globe, in particular we have discussed the project in the context of what is called the Major Economies Forum.

So that’s a political forum gathering all the largest emitting countries. And we presented the results of the project to all the energy and climate ministers attending the meeting. We’re very encouraged by the support that we received so far and we’re clearly not there yet. It’s not yet the primary focus of the negotiations.

People want to understand I’d say a bit better what it really means, what it really implies and, and how it can be operationalized in the context of the agreement to be reached in Paris in 2015. But there is clearly a momentum around this new approach. Much more effort is still needed and we count on you.

We count on your creativity to develop your own country deep decarbonization pathway, looking forward to receive them. And we count also on your commitment to put pressure on the political negotiation process to make COP21 in Paris a real success.

Deep Decarbonization Pathways: Country Case Studies III

What We Learn From Countries’ Deep Decarbonization Pathways

In the previous chapter I described briefly some of the key elements of the methodology we adopted in the deep decarbonization pathways project. In this chapter, we’re going to look at some of the results now.

So what we learned from the analysis of the 15 research teams of their respective countries’ pathways to deep decarbonization.731

Well first and, and very importantly, so let me pause a moment on that. Their results show that deep decarbonization is feasible. It’s a very important result. It shows that we can avoid dangerous climate change if we take strong and early action to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, if we invest heavily and rapidly also into some of the key pre-commercial low carbon technologies that are critical to achieve deep decarbonization at relatively low cost.

And also if we more profoundly reorient our development trajectory. I must say that the DDPP is still at an early stage. We have much more research and analysis and I hope good results coming in the upcoming months or even years. So far the country research teams have only produced a first set of interim results.

732So the precise level of emission reductions that is reached by the different pathways and that I’m going to show you is in many ways less meaningful than simply their order of magnitude. So that’s what I want you to concentrate on.

The order of magnitude of emission reductions achieved by these pathways is very substantial. As you can see on this graph, it represents an absolute decrease of emissions by 45% in 2050 compared to the level of emissions in the same 15 countries in 2010. As you can see on this other graph, it also represents a 56% decrease in emissions per capita and even an 88%, so very close to 90% decrease in emissions per unit of GDP. So the CO2 energy-related emissions divided by the GDP in 2050 compared to the level in 2010. Let’s look more closely at some of the results sector by sector.

The results also show the pivotal role played by electricity in the deep decarbonization strategies of all 15 countries. In aggregate across the 15 countries the carbon intensity of electricity, so the ratio in between the CO2 emissions and the electricity generated, measured in kilowatt hour is reduced by a stunning 94% in 2050 compared to 2010. So that’s a huge number. It means that by 2050, really electricity is almost completely decarbonized in these 15 countries taken together.

733As you can see on the graph, the carbon intensity of power generation goes from a bit more than 600 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour in 2010 to approximately 30 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour in 2050. So it’s really, really a huge drop and it means as I said, that essentially electricity is almost zero carbon by 2050.

That’s why electricity plays such a pivotal role in the deep decarbonization strategy, but it’s not the only one. There is another explanation and it’s because in the meantime electricity plays an increasing role in the energy system. A higher share of the electricity consumption is met through electricity as opposed to other energy carriers.

734As you can see on the graph, the share of electricity in final energy consumption increases from 19% to 35% in 2050 compared to 2010. But that was for the results in aggregate, so making averages across countries or looking at the total out of the 15 countries. But what is especially interesting is that the results also show the different options that are available to the different countries, in particular, to reach that common goal of the deep decarbonization of power generation, electricity supply.

It’s true that by 2050 all countries generate electricity almost exclusively through zero or very low carbon energy sources, but they rely on very different options to be frank to do this, as you can see on this graph. So let me just pick a few examples. Australia, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea, for example, rely heavily on solar energy as part of their power mix.

735It can be different types by the way of solar energy. It can be solar photovoltaic, or it can be concentrated solar power. It can be centralized solar energy or decentralized solar energy. But all of these countries have a very high share of their electricity that is coming from solar energy by 2050 in the pathways and developed by the research teams. Wind power plays a very important role in Canada, in China, in France, in Germany, in India, in Japan and also in the United States, where there is a significant potential for wind power that can be tapped into.

Hydropower plays a very important role in Brazil and Canada, also because there are large and sometimes still untapped resources of hydropower in these countries. Nuclear on the other hand represents a significant fraction of power production in many countries, France, the U.K., China, India, the U.S., and Russia. It plays a very little role, but, but still a role in some other countries such as Brazil and Canada and Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa. And CCS, very importantly, also plays a role in some of these scenarios.

Remember as we have discussed in the previous lecture, CCS is not yet deployed at scale, even though each and every element of the technology is a proven technology, but in the project we’ve made the assumption that as a result of a strong and sustained effort on research and development, CCS could become available and in fact many of the countries in the project with high shares of fossil fuels, so coal or gas in their power generation today felt like it was an important element of their decarbonization strategy going forward.

So you find carbon capture and sequestration in the scenarios that were developed by Canada, by China, by Indonesia, by Japan, by Mexico, by Russia, or the U.K. and the U.S. I want to mention here that these pathways and their results are of course only illustrative. I mean they shouldn’t be confused with the precise reality of what is going to happen in these countries or even what should happen in these countries, because there are many different ways in which the deep Decarbonization of power generation in particular can be achieved at the national level.

For example, in the project, the team producing the pathway for the U.S. developed not just one but three different pathways. Within the different pathways, higher shares of renewable energies for one or nuclear for the other or fossil fuels with CCS for the third pathway. And it’s very important to recognize that the most effective but also cost efficient way of achieving deep decarbonization is of subject to debates.

736First within the expert community. We had disagreements first. We tried to settle in the project, but it should also of course be the topic not only for an expert discussion but it should become the basis for a political debate within each country and each society.

So for sure, there are different options, different trajectories to deep Decarbonization in the future. But it is absolutely critical that these debates happen on the basis of detailed road maps for the deep decarbonization of the power sector, but also of the economy more broadly.

These detailed road maps need to be based on transparent assumptions regarding the availability of some pre-commercial technologies.

  • They need to be based on transparent assumptions regarding the projected cost of these technologies.
  • Also, transparent assumptions regarding their resource requirements. I mean how much water do we need to use? Or, how much land do we need to use to operate these technologies?
  • And also transparent assumptions regarding their possible side environmental and health impacts.

There are really important choices to be made regarding the best options for deep Decarbonization based on considerations regarding economic competitiveness, energy security or public preferences.

But these choices need to be made within the constraints of a global carbon budget to stay within 2-degree of global warming. The result of the pathway analysis also reveals in which sectors the emission reductions are relatively at least most difficult to achieve. Because in total, if the 15 pathways achieve an absolute reduction of CO2 energy emissions, the share of the emissions of some sectors and in particular the share of emissions from transport and industry is increasing in the pathways taken collectively.

737The analysis reveals that within the transport sector it is the emissions from freight as opposed to passenger transport which are again relatively more difficult to decarbonize.

As we have discussed, there are lots of different technological options to achieve the deep decarbonization of the freight and heavy industry sectors. Natural gas, electric hybrid, and hydrogen and fuel cells powered trucks. Biofuels or synthesized fuels for air and ocean shipping. Electrification of heating processes but also carbon capture and sequestration maybe for industry.

But it’s true that the feasibility and the scalability of these options is sometimes still uncertain and their costs are also likely to be quite high. And this is why some of the teams in some countries found it difficult to build in these technologies in their decarbonization model.

So to conclude this chapter, the pathway analysis that was developed by each of the country research teams and although their only at an interim phase at this stage, they already provide lots of very interesting insights on the country’s specific challenges of deep decarbonization, but also and most importantly the possible solutions to them. We will revise the analysis in the coming months.

We will for sure explore the potential for even deeper emission reductions because we’re not completely there yet. We will test the robustness of the analysis, add some new dimensions such as infrastructure stocks and analysis of the cost and benefits, and analysis of the policy frameworks to support the implementation of these different actions. But really you should also try to think about it yourself.

You should try to come up with alternatives to what we developed and who knows, maybe you would come up with even better solutions.

Deep Decarbonization Pathways: Country Case Studies II

The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project

All the reasons I mentioned in the previous chapter why countries need a deep decarbonization pathway are precisely why we’ve launched the deep decarbonization pathways project. We’ve built this project as a collaborative effort to understand how countries can transition to a low-carbon economy by mid-century and how the world can meet the objective of limiting global warming below 2-degrees Celsius.

The project gathers some of the leading research institutions from 15 countries, all of them among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases emissions. Together and combined, they represent a little bit more than 70% of the global emissions. So, which are these countries? It’s Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

It’s a long list and I can tell you it was not easy to manage a project with so many participants scattered across the so many different time zones. The day very often started with an early Skype with colleagues in China or India and finished many times with a late call with colleagues in Australia or South Korea. But it was really great fun for sure.

These 15 countries are at different stages of development. And that’s an important point. They have different historic responsibilities in climate change, also different capacities to invest in climate change mitigation. But as I said, they represent more than 70% of the global greenhouse gases emissions.

721So their strong actions are really, really important to meet the global goal of limiting global warming below 2-degrees Celsius. So what was the task of the 15-country research teams. Well each of them has been developing a deep decarbonization pathway to 2050 for its country and we’re going to look in this lecture at some of the key results coming from their very insightful analysis.

The objective was really to take into account in detail all the relevant country-specific national circumstances. As I said, their socioeconomic conditions, their model for economic growth and development going forward, their infrastructure stocks very importantly, or their natural resources endowment. Why did, did we want to do that? I mean why be so detailed?

It’s really because we wanted to make a convincing case for action at the national level, because before we started the DDPP, there were already many results of global studies produced through global models showing how to achieve deep emission reductions. And the result of these global studies provide many important insights. And we have already discussed them at length into some of the previous lectures. But on their own they’re a bit insufficient to make a really convincing case for action at the national level. And that’s at least for two different reasons.

  1. The first is obviously because they are not sufficiently detailed. And yet deep decarbonization strategies need to be based on the most precise available estimates of the mitigation potential within countries and even more than that, in different regions and locations.
  2. But there is another reason, less technical, more process related. It’s because if we want them to really become the basis for a public and a policy discussion, then the need to be developed within countries.

They cannot be imposed by an international institution or by a bunch of consultants sitting in New York or Paris. They really need to be developed by local experts and discussed within countries with all the different stakeholders that have a stake in the issue of climate change negotiation. Defining country-specific targets for deep decarbonization pathways was not an easy task I can tell you, because it raises many practical, but also political issues. And in fact, the reason why the international negotiations have made such slow and disappointing progress since the entry into force of the U.N. Convention on Climate Change is in part because of a continued disagreement about how to share the global effort of emission reductions across countries. It is certainly not the only obstacle, but it’s an important part of the deadlock, because countries have different interpretations of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

One of the key principles of the U.N. Convention on Climate Change, they disagree over the criteria that could be used to share global emission reductions between countries. Should we take into account historic emissions? How can we account for the fact that some countries have high emissions because they’re exporting the carbon intensive products that are consumed by other countries? How can we account also for the fact that countries have different mitigation potentials and therefore different costs of mitigation, but also, different capacities to invest in these mitigation options? All these questions, all these unresolved issues so far have blocked the international negotiations, and they have resulted in insufficient, widely insufficient action to date to reduce the emissions.

But in a way what is even more problematic is that it has prevented countries from even looking at what it would take to limit global warming below 2-degrees Celsius. The truth is that in order to stay within the 2-degree global carbon budget, every country with the notable exception of the least developed countries, but we have a full lecture dedicated to that, every country except the poorest among the poor countries will have to achieve deep emission reductions. And in particular, all of today’s large emitting countries.

The issue of who pays for the investment cost of deep decarbonization is of course essential to ensure that the global effort to reduce emissions is shared in an equitable manner. But before looking at the issue of these investment costs and who pays for them, it is critical to explore how each and every country can transition to a low-carbon economy. We need to identify technically feasible and sustainable deep decarbonization pathways, even before we quantify their costs and benefits and discuss who has to pay for them.

So how can we do that? Well we have already explained why the convergence of per capita emissions by 2050, although it cannot be used as a criteria for the fair allocation of the global carbon budget, is still a pretty good benchmark to set the target of deep decarbonization pathways; at least one of them. It cannot be considered as a criteria for the equitable sharing of the global carbon budget because it doesn’t reflect some important considerations such as historic emissions or the fact that some countries export carbon intensive goods that others consume.

But it is nonetheless a pretty good benchmark because very few countries will technically be able to fall below the 1.6 tons of CO2 energy per capita that is necessary to have a 50% chance of staying within the 2-degree limit, or the 1.1 tons of CO2 energy per capita if we want to have a higher chance, a higher than two-third chance of staying within the 2-degree limit.

Not even the low-income countries with emissions per capita lower than this level today because the catch-up economic growth in their countries will and should drive their emissions up, even as they improve the carbon intensity of their GDP growth. So as a result a very few countries can be below the global average, then very few countries can be above.

But I should say that even more important than the precise level of emissions in 2050, it is really the order of magnitude of the emission reductions that is important and that needs to be consistent with the globally agreed 2-degree limit. And this is what we’ve been looking at in the deep decarbonization pathways project as a way to explore the options for the deep decarbonization of each and every country and in a way break the deadlock of the climate negotiations.

Deep Decarbonization Pathways: Country Case Studies I

Why Countries Need Deep Decarbonization Pathways to 2050

Today we’re going to look at some of the results coming from the deep decarbonization pathways project. We kept talking about the DDPP.

This is an important step forward in this course because it means that for the first time we’re going to discuss in detail the country-specific ways in which countries can transition to a low-carbon economy, deeply reduce their emissions but also continue to grow their economy and ultimately achieve sustainable development. So far we’ve looked at the results of a global mitigation scenario. And we have calculated by how much the emissions from each sectors, the emissions from power supply, from industry, from transports and buildings must decrease to stay within the 2-degrees limit.

We’ve also described the three pillars of the deep decarbonization of energy systems. The energy efficiency, the low-carbon electricity, and the fuel switching, which we said represents the foundations to design successful deep decarbonization strategies. And finally, we have identified the key technological challenges that must be met through directed and accelerated technical change to meet the global challenge of deep decarbonization.

But a key question remains. How can these general principles, how can these high-level strategies be applied to particular country with vastly different national circumstances?

Today we’re going to see what specific solutions are available to individual countries taking into account their different national circumstances. We’re going to take into account their different socioeconomic contexts, their different aspirations and model of development going forward, but also their different natural resources endowments. And we’re going to see how these country-specific solutions can be implemented.

Defining country-specific solutions to deep decarbonization is really essential, because if the world collectively is to meet the challenge of climate change mitigation, then every country, but in particular, all the large emitting countries in need to have a good strategy to achieve both their economic objective, growth development, but also the global goal of deep emission reductions consistent and in line with the 2-degree limit.

To do so, countries need what we’re going to call in the rest of the lecture, deep decarbonization pathways, or DDPs. What is this? Well it’s a road map or a blueprint if you want for each country to map out how they can transition to a low carbon economy in line with the 2-degree limit. So why is it so important that countries develop these deep decarbonization pathways?

Well it’s for a number of pretty simple reasons, although to be frank, they’ve not been fully grasped by many, but it is our hope that as a result of the deep decarbonization pathways project, each country will soon have one and that the global agreement to be reached in Paris at COP21 in 2015 will encourage countries to produce one. But we’re going to discuss that in further detail in the last chapter of this lecture.

Countries need deep decarbonization pathways to, mid-century, to the year 2050 because the nature and the scale of the global warming problem are such that there is unfortunately no quick or no easy fix to it. Deep Decarbonization will not happen overnight. As we’ve seen, the ultimate objective is the phasing out of the freely emitting fossil fuels, but that’s not going to happen tomorrow.

It will only happen as a result of our sustained efforts during the second half of the century. So that’s a pretty long time scale. And there is also no silver bullet to the challenge of deep decarbonization. There are many critical technologies.

And we’ve been discussing in detail some of them. Solar photovoltaic for example, wind power, nuclear for some countries, carbon capture and sequestration if it becomes available, electric vehicles for sure. A bit everywhere. But none of them is sufficient alone to deliver the necessary emission reduction.

So they need to be combined all together. Deep decarbonization is not about incremental change or small deviation from business-as-usual. And if we don’t design even the rather short-term climate change mitigation strategies with the view of achieving a long-term objective that is consistent with the 2-degree limit, then we really run the risk of being misled because we could lock in some high carbon infrastructures that could prevent us from reaching that long-term goal in the future.

711Let me simply pick one example to make this point very clear. Shifting from coal to gas as the United States is currently doing through shale gas and fracking delivers some significant short-term emission reductions, because gas is a lower carbon source of energy than coal. But it is still a pretty high carbon source of energy, at least compared to renewable energies or nuclear. So a power mix that would be primarily made of gas would emit way too much CO2 compared to the objective of deep decarbonization in line with the 2-degree limit. So the shift from coal to gas can in a way only be a matter of buying time, a bridging option if you want, towards a truly decarbonized energy system.

The deep decarbonization pathways we’re talking about therefore need to backcast from the global goal of limiting the temperature increase below 2-degrees Celsius. The need to explore the transformations that are required to reach this goal. What do I mean by backcasting? Well it’s, it’s a term I use to describe a process where a target is set for the future and then the changes needed to achieve that target are determined through the process of backcasting.

It’s very important that you don’t confuse backcasting with rigid, central planning because a process of deep decarbonization must be very adaptive. These deep Decarbonization pathways will have to be continually revised and updated based on your results from climate science, new technological innovation along the way and also the lessons learned from the early implementation phases of these pathways. But it is really essential that countries explore the changes to their growth models, to their development frameworks and in particular to their energy systems to reach the global goal of staying below 2-degrees Celsius of global warming.

There are also less technical, more process-related in a way reasons why deep decarbonization pathways are so important. They’re important because they’re an essential tool for promoting a national dialogue on climate change mitigation options, to launch what is really necessary, a process of intense and complex problem-solving. They’re really a critical instrument to enable a, a public, but also a policy discussion in every country on how best to achieve these emission reduction objectives, how to understand the possible tradeoffs in between multiple objectives, but also to identify the synergies, the win-win solutions.

The discussion over these deep Decarbonization pathways should involve all the relevant stakeholders, the policymakers, the business, the civil society. All the different types of expert communities with some knowledge on the issue, the climatologists, the engineers, the geologists, the economists, the other social scientists, they should all debate very intensively the best options for deep decarbonization, identify the bottlenecks and propose new approaches. In fact, you should try to develop a deep decarbonization pathway for your own country.

Look at the pathways that were produced in the context of the deep decarbonization pathways project, or at other studies if unfortunately your country was not part of the first phase of the project. Try to come up with different possibly even better solutions, discuss them with your professors, other experts, NGOs, business people. Even your politicians if you have access to them. Send your proposals to us. I can promise that it will not only be a very interesting assignment but something very useful to do