The Paris agreements reached in COP21 have set the ambitious target to limit to global warming within 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. This goal requires a deep transformation in key industry sectors such as energy, transportation, manufacturing and agriculture in order to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. While the discussion on how to achieve this transformation is complex, it can be understood around three main pathways.

1) Dig-and-bury. Along this pathway, exploitation and exploration of fossil fuel reserves is continued, but it is coupled to improvements in energy efficiency and massive programs of carbon capture storage (e.g. extracting CO2 during combustion process and pump it in underground storage systems, see link to EU commission page on the topic) and/or atmosphere cooling technologies (e.g. by spraying aerosols, see more for instance here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_engineering). Nuclear energy programs are continued/expanded.

 

2) Big-green. Along this pathway, fossil and nuclear energy programs are gradually phased-out. Energy efficiency represents a priority. Renewable energy is harvested mostly by means of large-scale projects such as massive wind farms and solar parks connected into national and international grids. Intensive bio-fuel agriculture and biomass provide energy for all machines that cannot be easily electrified or connected to the grid.

 

3) Local-green. This pathway includes the measures undertaken in the large-scale renewable energy pathway but gives priority, whenever technically and politically feasible, to the energy independence of cities, neighborhoods and rural areas through the combination of small-scale solar, wind and power-to-gas plants (i.e. transforming exceeding electric power into energy forms that can be stored, such as compressing or synthetizing gas). Moreover, priority is given to a design of product and energy life cycles in line with the concept of circular economy.

 

In order to clarify the enablers and the barriers to the transition to a low-carbon economy it is also crucial to understand if there is an alignment between economic feasibility and environmental sustainability or a tradeoff. To this end, we are building a map of the positions of COP23 stakeholders with respect to the three pathways above. This exercise is part of the European funded research (more information on our campaigns: https://simpolproject.eu/crowdsourcing). Your contribution is crucial to build the policy network map of COP23 stakeholders.

 

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