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New paper published on decarbonising the difficult to mitigate sectors of transport and industry

6 November 2020

Limiting warming to well below 2°C requires rapid and complete decarbonisation of energy systems.

This paper by Dr Maria Sharmina and colleagues at the University of East Anglia and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency compares economy-wide modelling of 1.5°C and 2°C scenarios with sector-focused analyses of four critical sectors that are difficult to decarbonise: aviation, shipping, road freight transport and industry. The authors develop and apply a novel framework to analyse and track mitigation progress in these sectors. The paper finds that emission reductions in the 1.5°C and 2°C scenarios of the IMAGE model come from deep cuts in CO2 intensities and lower energy intensities, with minimal demand reductions in these sectors’ activity. A range of additional measures and policy levers that are not explicitly captured in modelled scenarios but could contribute significant emission reductions are identified. These are demand reduction options and include less air travel (aviation), reduced transportation of fossil fuels (shipping), more locally produced goods combined with high load factors (road freight), and a shift to a circular economy (industry). Based on sectoral analysis framework, the authors suggest modelling improvements and policy recommendations, calling on the relevant UN agencies to start tracking mitigation progress through monitoring key elements of the framework (CO2 intensity, energy efficiency, and demand for sectoral activity as well as the underlying drivers) as a matter of urgency.

Key policy insights

  • Four critical sectors (aviation, shipping, road freight, and industry) cannot cut their CO2 emissions to zero rapidly with technological supply-side options alone. Without large-scale negative emissions, significant demand reductions for those sectors’ activities are needed to meet the 1.5–2°C goal.
  • Policy priorities include affordable alternatives to frequent air travel; smooth connectivity between low-carbon travel modes; speed reductions in shipping and reduced demand for transporting fossil fuels; distributed manufacturing and local storage; and tightening standards for material use and product longevity.
  • The COVID-19 crisis presents a unique opportunity to enact lasting CO2 emissions reductions, through switching from frequent air travel to other transport modes and online interactions.
  • Policies driving significant demand reductions for the critical sectors’ activities would reduce reliance on carbon removal technologies that are unavailable at scale.
airplane flying during sunset

To cut emissions rapidly in aviation, shipping, road freight and industry, the paper calls for reductions in demand for sectoral activity, to complement technological options.

Read the full paper at the link below:

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