While many individuals and businesses think the only way to reach the 1.5-degree Celsius target set by the Paris Climate Agreement is to rely on methodologies such as bioenergy with carbon capture storage (CCS), the reality is that other social, behavioral and technological changes can help reach such targets.
A new report in “Nature Energy” says analysis has shown how a range of new social, behavioral and technological innovations, combined with strong policy support for energy efficiency and low-carbon development can help reverse the historical trajectory of ever-rising energy demand. The report, “A Low Energy Demand Scenario for Meeting the 1.5°C Target and Sustainable Development Goals without Negative Emission Technologies,” identified a number of key findings. For example, shared and ‘on-demand’ fleets of more energy efficient electric vehicles with increased occupancy can reduce global energy demand for transport by 60% by 2050 while reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Single digital devices such as smartphones serving a wide range of functions combined with younger generations’ preferences for accessing services instead of owning goods can limit the otherwise explosive growth in global energy demand to a mere 15% by 2050 for a digital economy with over twice the number of devices than are in use today.
The analysis also found that strict standards for the energy performance of new buildings as well as renovations of existing buildings can reduce energy demand from heating and cooling by 75% by 2050. Furthermore, according to the study, if the total global energy demand is reduced by 40% by 2050, with a strong emphasis on electrification, current rates of renewable energy deployment projected on into the future could more than meet the world’s energy needs without having to rely on unproven technologies such as CCS to capture and store greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels or plant matter.
Arnulf Grubler, lead author of the study and IIASA acting program director, notes in the study that “the global community from world leaders and multinational corporations down to individual consumers and citizens need to act in concert to avoid dangerous climate change while improving human wellbeing. Our scenario offers a roadmap as to how this can be achieved.”