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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

We must accelerate decarbonization for sustainability and limiting warming to 2C; 66% chance if emissions peak by 2020 and drop by 70% by 2050

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September 21, 2017 University of Sussex

…To provide a reasonable (66%) chance of limiting global temperature increases to below 2oC, the International Energy Agency and International Renewable Energy Agency suggest that global energy-related carbon emissions must peak by 2020 and fall by more than 70% in the next 35 years. This implies a tripling of the annual rate of energy efficiency improvement, retrofitting the entire building stock, generating 95% of electricity from low-carbon sources by 2050 and shifting almost entirely towards electric cars.

This elemental challenge necessitates “deep decarbonisation” of electricity, transport, heat, industrial, forestry and agricultural systems across the world. But despite the recent rapid growth in renewable electricity generation, the rate of progress towards this wider goal remains slow…

The Policy Forum provides four key lessons for how to accelerate sustainability transitions.

Lesson 1: Focus on socio-technical systems rather than individual elements…Accelerated low-carbon transitions therefore depend on both techno-economic improvements, and social, political and cultural processes…Traditional policy approaches emphasizing a single technology will not be enough…

Lesson 2: Align multiple innovations and systems…accelerated low-carbon transitions in electricity depend not only on the momentum of renewable energy innovations like wind, solar-PV and bio-energy, but also on complementary innovations including energy storage and demand response. These need aligned and then linked so that innovations are harmonized…

Lesson 3: Offer societal and business support…Public support is crucial for effective transition policies. Low-carbon transitions in mobility, agro-food, heat and buildings will also involve millions of citizens who need to modify their purchase decisions, user practices, beliefs, cultural conventions and skills. To motivate citizens, financial incentives and information about climate change threats need to be complemented by positive discourses about the economic, social and cultural benefits of low-carbon innovations….

Lesson 4: Phase out existing systems…Phasing out existing systems accelerates transitions by creating space for niche-innovations and removing barriers to their diffusion. …

Frank W. Geels, Benjamin K. Sovacool, Tim Schwanen, Steve Sorrell. Sociotechnical transitions for deep decarbonization. Science, 2017; 357 (6357): 1242 DOI: 10.1126/science.aao3760

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