Table of contents

2.2.1. Global policy targets and energy scenarios

UNFCCC Paris Agreement

The overarching aim of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is to hold the increase of global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, while also pursuing efforts to limit this rise to 1.5 °C (UNFCCC, 2015). All signatories have committed to determining, planning and reporting on measures intended to mitigate global warming through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

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The current commitments in the form of the NDCs are not sufficient to reduce global emissions to a level consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The latest UNEP Emissions Gap Report assessed the gap between the emission reductions necessary to achieve such goals and the probable emissions reductions that stem from full implementation of NDCs. It stated that ‘Pathways reflecting current NDCs imply global warming of about 3 °C by 2100, with warming continuing afterwards’. It stressed that ‘countries need to strengthen the ambition of NDCs and scale up and increase effectiveness of domestic policy to achieve the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement’ (UNEP, 2018).

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IPCC SR1.5 pathways

The recently released IPCC Special Report Global Warming of 1.5 °C (IPCC, 2018) found several points of agreement across the pathways compatible with a global warming of 1.5 °C: a marked increase of the share of renewables, which may cover half to two-thirds of global TPES by 2050; a strong decrease in coal use, with the residual to be used only in combination with CCS by 2050; a rapid decline in the carbon intensity of electricity generation, coupled with a marked increase in electrification of all end-uses; and a sharp decrease in energy demand driven by a pronounced lifestyle shift. In 1.5 °C pathways, these changes would need to take place much faster than in 2 °C pathways, which requires even more urgent and ambitious policy action.

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IEA scenarios

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has developed comprehensive global energy scenarios up to 2040 (IEA, 2018d). There are a number of key variations in these scenarios, typically based on the speed and type of decarbonisation pursued in the energy system. Amongst the three main scenarios are (1) Current Policies, which considers only the impacts of policies already legislated for as of mid-2018; and (2) the New Policies Scenario (NPS), which also includes the likely effects of announced policies by August 2018, including those to meet the NDCs for the Paris Agreement. Other scenarios include (3) the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), which presents an integrated approach to delivering on the Paris agreement (the scenario is compatible with an increase in global mean temperature by the end of the century “well below 2 °C”), universal access to modern energy by 2030 and improving air quality in order to significantly reduce pollution-related premature deaths.

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The scenarios include different assumptions on energy production, prices, (technology) costs and demand, GDP and population growth and the impact of policies – one of the most powerful policy variables being the price of CO2. The scenarios also include the impact of trends such as digitalisation, electrification of transport, and the growth of energy storage, CCS and nuclear power on the energy system. The Sustainable Development Scenario also integrates the energy-water nexus into the analysis.

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The IEA Current and New Policies Scenarios and the IEA Energy or Reference Technology Scenario (IEA, 2017a) illustrate that significant further action is still needed if global emissions are to be kept consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) outlines one pathway for these goals to be achieved. This includes:

  • A peak in global energy-related GHG emissions by 2020, and a decline to less than half of 2018 levels by 2040 – the largest part (around 80 %) of this change achieved almost equally by energy efficiency and renewable energy, with a small (8 %) contribution of reducing methane fugitive emissions from upstream oil and gas production.
  • 85 % of power generation comes from low carbon sources. Nuclear accounts for 13 %, and power plants fitted with carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) account for 6 % of generation in 2040.
  • A 15 % increase in global energy investments compared to the NPS.

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JRC scenarios

In its Global Energy and Climate Outlook 2018 (Keramidas et al., 2018), the JRC provides a detailed analysis of sectoral mitigation options towards a global low-emissions economy for two climate stabilization scenarios (a ‘Central 2 °C scenario’ and a ‘1.5 °C scenario’), which are presented alongside a counterfactual ‘Reference scenario’ (without new policies) and a benchmark ‘NDC scenario’ (where NDCs are extended to 2050).

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Others scenarios

Further global energy scenarios are reviewed in a recent analysis commissioned by EFDA (Biberacher and Gadocha, 2015).

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