Plausible Energy Demand Patterns in a Growing Global Economy with Climate Policy

>> Read report pubiished in Nature Climate Change journal
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Abstract

Reducing the energy demand has become a key mechanism for limiting climate change, but there are practical limitations associated with large energy savings in a growing global economy and, importantly, its lower-income parts. Using new data on energy and GDP, we show that adopting the same near-term low-energy growth trajectory in all regions in IPCC scenarios limiting global warming to 1.5 °C presents an unresolved policy challenge. We discuss this challenge of combining energy demand reductions with robust income growth for the 6.4 billion people in middle- and low-income countries in light of the reliance of economic development on industrialization. Our results highlight the importance of addressing limits to energy demand reduction in integrated assessment modelling when regional economic development is powered by industrialization and of instead exploring faster energy supply decarbonization. Insights from development economics and other disciplines could help generate plausible assumptions given the financial, investment and stability issues involved.

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