Our aim is to provide an objective fact-base and set of insights to inform decision-makers, both public and private. We focus on different topics over time, bringing together leading research and multiple stakeholder perspectives to create regular insights that can be easily translated to action. 

Achieving a green recovery for China

Energy Transition Commission (ETC) and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) today jointly released the report Achieving Green Recovery for China: Putting Zero-Carbon Electrification at the Core. This report recommends key stimulus programs for China’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, and proposes that zero-carbon electrification be at the center of China’s investment strategy to realize economic growth and a sustainable future.

The report is one in a series of reports that RMI and ETC are releasing regarding green stimulus after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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7 priorities to help the global economy recover

while building a healthier, more resilient, net-zero-emissions economy

The COVID-19 crisis has brought the world economy to a standstill, provoking an abrupt fall in GDP and in international trade. In this unprecedented crisis, the first priority is to protect populations and urgently reinforce health care systems. As countries start to emerge from emergency, efforts are progressively turning to economic recovery. The ETC has defined some key priorities to help the global economy recover while building a healthier, more resilient, net-zero-emissions economy. Governments have the choice, the power, and the responsibility to build it faster with companies around the world.

Cover Letter Recommendations

Accelerating the Low Carbon Transition

The case for stronger, more targeted and coordinated international action

This report is for the governments and businesses that are interested in accelerating deep decarbonisation of the world economy. It aims to highlight where their actions can have the greatest impact, by bringing together knowledge of how technology transitions happen and how international cooperation has succeeded in the past, and applying these insights to the main greenhouse gas emitting sectors. In each of these sectors, the report identifies points of leverage for coordinated international action to accelerate low-carbon transitions. In comparison with previous reports, what is new is a focus on the processes of change, rather than on the end goal.

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China 2050: A fully developed rich zero carbon economy

While China’s per capita emissions are in line with those of Europe, its sheer size and extraordinary economic growth make it the world’s largest emitter in absolute terms. For the world to stand any chance of limiting global warming to as close as possible to 1.5°C, China must reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. Produced in partnership with Rocky Mountain Institute’s China team, this report demonstrates that it is technically and economically possible for China to deliver net-zero emissions by 2050, and that committing to this target will enable it to become a rich developed country. With the right energy sources, technologies and forceful policy action, China can decarbonize its entire economy by mid-century.

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How to scale-up investments for zero-carbon heavy industry & heavy-duty transport?

The first of the ETC’s “How to Reach Net-Zero” Insights Series focuses on the significant investment required across the power, buildings, transport and industry sectors if we are to transition to net-zero energy and industrial systems over the next 30 years. This report identifies the major obstacles that stand in the way of low-carbon investing in the harder-to- abate sectors, including if investment are Paris aligned, and actions policy makers and financial institutes can take to overcome these and scale up investment in these sectors, such as the creation of sustainable development investment principles.

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How to boost materials efficiency and circularity in the manufacturing sector?

The second in the ETC’s “How to Reach Net-Zero” Insights Series explores how material efficiency and circularity can drastically reduce carbon emissions from heavy industry sectors, however, this is severely hindered by split responsibilities across what are very long-value chains including material producers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers and recyclers.

This report examines the policy levers that can drive progress including extended producer responsibility, taxing or banning incineration and using public procurement to drive the adoption of circular products and services.

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Better Energy, Greater Prosperity

We must reduce carbon emissions by half by 2040 (compared to a business as usual scenario) with further cuts thereafter to achieve the Paris climate objective - limiting global warming to well below 2oC. Simultaneously, we must ensure economic development and access to affordable, sustainable and reliable energy for all, particularly in developing countries. Business and government must seize the opportunity to halve carbon emissions by 2040 while ensuring economic development and energy access for all, but immediate action is needed to accelerate clean electrification, decarbonization beyond power and energy productivity improvement. This report outlines achievable pathways to reduce carbon emissions while ensuring sustainable economic development and universal access to affordable and reliable energy.

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Shaping Energy Transitions

This short Position Paper describes the key energy transitions challenges that lie ahead and gives an overview of the Commission itself. It presents two main dimensions of energy transitions: economic development and climate change. It considers what it would take to achieve both ambitions, what makes this difficult, and what opportunities exist to accelerate transitions.

The paper also lays out the mission, core beliefs and work program of the Commission. It describes what dilemmas on energy system transitions we are trying to resolve and which questions we aim to answer. It then describes what approach we will take to do so and how we aim to have impact. The key exhibits in the paper can be found here.

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Pathways from Paris:

Assessing the INDC Opportunity

The 2015 United Nations climate change conference in Paris (COP21) agreed to limit global warming to well below 2ºC and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5ºC. Before the conference, participating countries submitted plans (INDCsto reduce their emissions. Many studies have shown that these together do not achieve the agreed upon global goals. We investigate what levers countries prioritize to reduce emissions and what opportunities exist for further reduction, ahead of the next round of submissions in 2018. In addition to the report, we have published the underlying data, a number of key presentation slides and generated an infographic.

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Economic growth in a low carbon world

Without a structural break in energy productivity, continued population growth and economic growth is likely to drive a significant increase in energy demand globally. This research paper developed by Vivid Economics for the Energy Transitions Commission investigates the drivers most likely to determine (differences in) future energy demand and the critical levers to achieve improvements in energy productivity of 3% per annum (compared to 1.7% today). This analysis charts how simultaneous radical improvements in energy productivity across the transport, industry and buildings sectors, driven both by continued technical progress and structural shifts in urban design and economic activities, could reduce global energy demand by 60% compared to business as usual by 2050.

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Low-cost, low-carbon power systems

By 2030, the all-in cost of a new power system based almost entirely on variable renewable energy will be lower than that of a fossil fuel-based system. This is the conclusion of the research carried out by Climate Policy Initiative for the Energy Transitions Commission analyzing the flexibility challenges, costs and solutions in a near-total-renewable-based power system. Low-carbon energy sources have greater flexibility requirements, driven by their nature and technical characteristics. These flexibility requirements are in turn highly dependent on regional specifics, such as demand profile, transmission capacity, hydroelectric capacity and weather. This research paper analyzes the challenges and opportunities in four distinct regions – California, Germany, Maharashtra and the Nordic Region – and outlines the levers by which system flexibility can be achieved at low cost in a near-total-variable-renewable system.

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A new electricity era: how to decarbonize energy systems through electrification

In a low-carbon power system, electrification could reduce fossil fuel use by at least 10-20% and lead to a 2-4 GT decrease in carbon emissions by 2040. At present, 78% of energy used by key non-power sectors (industry, transport and buildings) comes from fossil fuels, of which 17% comes from electricity generated from fossil fuels. In a world where power generation is decarbonized, extended electrification can help reduce CO2 emissions significantly by accelerating the decarbonization of energy supply and by improving energy productivity. This research paper co-produced by Climate Policy Initiative and Copenhagen Economics for the Energy Transitions Commission maps both the short-term sectoral opportunities and long-term innovations required to expand electrification.

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The Future of Fossil Fuels

Meeting a 2oC objective implies a strict carbon budget of maximum 900 billion tonnes of COemissions from the energy system between today and the end of the century. A 2oC energy transitions would therefore imply a significant decrease in fossil fuels use, with different trajectories for coal, oil and gas. In this context, fossil fuels should be considered as a scarce resource and their use concentrated in applications with highest value and limited alternatives, especially in industry. 

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