July 3, 2022

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Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 IS possible without damaging the economy, study claims 

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Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is possible without damaging the economy, a new study claims.

Scientists from University College London modelled various scenarios to see if the ambitious target is possible with disrupting economic growth.

Their findings suggest that we should be able to reach net-zero emissions and limit temperature increase to 2.7°F (1.5°C) above pre-industrial levels without a major impact on the global economy.

‘Continuing global economic growth is clearly compatible with achieving the temperature target in the Paris Agreement,’ said Paul Ekins, who led the study.

‘Governments now need to step up to put in place the policies to stimulate the investments that are required to turn these projections into reality.’

Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is possible without damaging the economy, a new study claims

The UK’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution 

In 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution, laying the foundations for a green economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19 The plan focuses on increasing ambition in the following areas:

  1. Advancing offshore wind
  2. Driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen
  3. Delivering new and advanced nuclear power
  4. Accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles
  5. Green public transport, cycling and walking
  6. ‘Jet zero’ and green ships
  7. Greener buildings
  8. Investing in carbon capture, usage and storage
  9. Protecting our natural environment
  10. Green finance and innovation

Previous studies have argued that achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is impossible without some disruption to global economies.

However, both the UK and Finland have shown it is possible to slash emissions while growing their economies, with both demonstrating this from 2010 to 2016.

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In the new study, the team modelled various scenarios to slow the growth of global energy demand, so that that in 2100, energy demand is only 30 per cent above its 2020 lelve.

They also modelled the deployment of renewable technologies needed to decarbonise electricity generation almost completely by 2100 and produce seven times as much power as the world used in 2010, to replace fossil fuels in transport, heating and in some industrial processes.

Additionally, they modelled the phasing down of coal globally.

Their models showed that it is possible to reach net-zero emissions without reducing economic growth, while also limiting temperature increase to 2.7°F (1.5°C) above pre-industrial levels. 

Professor Ekins said: ‘None of the scenarios came anywhere near declines in economic output from the 2020 level.

‘Under the central scenario economic growth after 2020 declines from 3.5 per cent to just over one per cent in 2100. This decline is mainly due to the stabilisation of the human population over this period.

‘Per capita growth just about halves over these 80 years as the growth of investment – which is essential for decarbonisation – slows, largely after 2040.

Previous studies have argued that achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is impossible without some disruption to global economies

Previous studies have argued that achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is impossible without some disruption to global economies

‘The average annual growth rate over the period 2020 to 2100 consistent with an energy system that achieves 1.5°C [2.7°F] in 2100 – after peaking at 1.87°C [3.36°F] between 2050 and 206 – is 1.76 per cent. By 2100 the global economy is five times the size it was in 2015.’

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With a slower coal phase-down, Professor Elkins says it would still be possible to reach the 2.7°F (1.5°C) target by 2100, but only by making ‘significantly greater’ use of carbon capture and storage and negative emission technologies.

He said: ‘The peak temperature under this scenario rises from 1.87°C [3.36°F] to 1.89°C [3.40°F].

‘If carbon capture is not available, even with the fast coal phase-down, cumulative CO2 emissions double over the central scenario, and it would no longer be possible, to keep the temperature rise to 1.5°C [2.7°F] by 2100 – it rises to 1.74°C [3.13°F].

‘The modelling results of this study suggest that, with stringent public policy, the Paris target limiting warming to 1.5°C [2.7°F] in 2100 is feasible, and that this can be achieved with robust economic growth.

‘In order to achieve this, countries’ policies would need to stimulate significant increases in energy and resource efficiency and the rapid deployment of low-carbon technologies, with global cooperation, strong environmental policy, and low population growth.’

He added: ‘Continuing global economic growth is clearly compatible with achieving the temperature target in the Paris Agreement.

‘Governments now need to step up to put in place the policies to stimulate the investments that are required to turn these projections into reality.’

THE PARIS AGREEMENT: A GLOBAL ACCORD TO LIMIT TEMPERATURE RISES THROUGH CARBON EMISSION REDUCTION TARGETS

The Paris Agreement, which was first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and limit climate change.

It hopes to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C (3.6ºF) ‘and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F)’.

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It seems the more ambitious goal of restricting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research which claims 25 per cent of the world could see a significant increase in drier conditions. 

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals with regards to reducing emissions:

1)  A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels

2) To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change

3) Governments agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries

4) To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science

Source: European Commission 

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