Pathways to Deep Decarbonization Report

By Jeongseok Seo

For deep decarbonization of each country to be realized, three common tools are needed: energy efficiency and conservation, low-carbon electricity, and fuel switching.
For deep decarbonization of each country to be realized, three common tools are needed: energy efficiency and conservation, low-carbon electricity, and fuel switching.

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization 2014 Report is an inaugural effort of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP). Launched in Seoul in October 2013, the DDPP is “a collaborative initiative to understand and show how individual countries can transition to a low-carbon economy and how the world can meet the internationally agreed targets for limiting the increase in global mean surface temperature to less than 2 degree Celsius” [1]. This report is prepared jointly by 27 partner organizations from 15 member countries and published by Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), which are leading the project.

Key findings of this report show that total CO2-energy emissions from 15 preliminary deep decarbonization pathways (DDPs) identified can lead to a decrease in emissions by 45%. While this does not achieve the full decarbonization needed to assure to stay below 2 degree Celsius limit, the report stresses that pathways can be immediately implemented, which moves us substantially toward a global goal of living sustainably. For deep decarbonization of each country to occur, the report provides three common tools: energy efficiency and conservation, low-carbon electricity, and fuel switching [2].

This report can be viewed as a general guidance document for how a country can contribute to the global efforts in limiting the 2 degree Celsius threshold. Detailed analyses for individual countries will be released on the DDPP website. Two country-level reports have so far been released: the U.S. and Australia, which are available at: http://unsdsn.org/what-we-do/deep-decarbonization-pathways), and a report on France is scheduled to be released in the first half of 2015.

While many analysts would find much to agree with in terms of the value in identifying and developing deep decarbonization pathways, the objective of this report has also raised concerns. First, the underlying principles and assumptions of the report appear to be rooted in eco-modernization principles, in which humans not only fix severe problems like climate change but also can secure continued economic growth vis-à-vis technological innovations and through advancement in environmental management. While this perspective seems to be popular, it can be criticized for its dependency on experts and bureaucrats, most of whom are rarely exposed to the difficulties arising from climate change [3]. Some also object to an initiative like this because it seeks to endorse a vain ambition to ‘master’ nature. And some will criticize the effort for its failure to include NGOs in the pathway-building exercise [4]. Participation from civil society in each country could enrich country-level reports which will follow. Even so, DDPP is worth the attention of researchers and citizens seeking ideas on how to build a sustainable future.

References

[1] Deep Decarbonization Pathways official website: http://unsdsn.org/what-we-do/deep-decarbonization-pathways/
[2] SDSN and IDDRI. Pathways to Deep Decarbonization 2014 Report. Sustainable Development Solution Network and the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI). Retrieved from: http://unsdsn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/DDPP_Digit.pdf
[3] Glover, Leigh (2006). Postmodern Climate Change. New York: Routledge.
[4] Byrne et al. (2002) “The Production of Unequal Nature,” in Environmental Justice, Discourses in International Political Economy (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers)

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