Chapter 3 - The tools lay at our feet
Moving from 2009 to the 1-tonne society of 2109 cannot be done in a single leap. There are a variety of pathways available that could achieve stabilisation of greenhouse gases at around 450 parts per million.
A study by McKinsey & Co. inventoried measures for abating carbon of four primary types:
- Energy efficiency
- Low-carbon energy supply
- Terrestrial carbon in forestry and agriculture
- Behavioural change
Efficiency measures – arguably the most important tools to put to work by 2030 – effectively buy time and give space for the economy to grow.
Forestry and land use measures, likewise, primarily buy the global economy time.
Low-carbon energy supplies will have to be expanded massively in the long term. The period from 2030 to 2050 will be crucial, as the technologies that show abatement potential begin to make their commercial breakthroughs and move the global economy in a more sustainable direction.
Behavioural change is the area hardest to capture in this practical 2030 perspective. Looking longer-term, however, it may have a huge role to play.
Capturing the necessary carbon abatement potential is of course not trivial. The most important factors will be enabling government policies, which can also be broken down into four types:
- A carbon price to guide investments in power and industrial infrastructure.
- Regulations and standards for energy efficiency to motivate economically beneficial abatement that is not being captured despite the value of energy savings.
- A combination of incentives and regulations to transform land use and forestry practices.
- ‘Push’ mechanisms to drive down the costs of emerging technologies.
A global framework will be needed to coordinate policies and capture the maximum potential at minimum costs.
Should policies and coordination not emerge soon enough, the picture changes. Investments in plants, vehicles and buildings are long-lived, so that missed potential can result in a ‘lock-in’ of business-as-usual emissions.