A net-zero emission European society is within reach but getting there starts today

Europe can reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest. Not only is it technically possible: a net-zero future is likely to be very desirable, with a prosperous economy, a more resilient society, and higher levels of wellbeing. This is the overall conclusion of “Net-Zero by 2050: From Whether to How”, a new report released today by the ECF and Climact. It showcases the results of the Carbon Transparency Initiative (CTI) 2050 Roadmap Tool project, developed over the past year in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders.

Impacts of climate change are already being felt today around the globe, including in Europe, and urgent action is now required by all countries. The Paris Agreement states an objective of limiting global warming to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels, but also of making all possible efforts to achieve the goal of 1.5°C climate stabilisation.

Based on the scientific underpinning of these goals provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), signatories to the Paris Agreement also committed to ensure that global GHG emissions fall to net zero as early as possible in the second half of this century, before going negative. This means developed economies such as the European Union’s (EU), will need to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, or even earlier. Numerous countries have already set goals consistent with this.

The European Union is currently preparing a revised long-term vision, which it will need to submit to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by 2020. This is therefore the right time to review this ambition, for which we hope this project can offer a guide and inspiration.

“In order to reach our goal, we need a plan – we need to know the pathways to net-zero, including the growth and innovation opportunities it presents, the trade-offs that may need to be made, and the policy designs we will need to get there.” – Laurence Tubiana, CEO, European Climate Foundation.

Key findings

The report provides a clear perspective on the feasibility and the implications for the European Union of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Our starting point is that pathways to net-zero emissions by mid-century are a pre-requisite for meeting the Paris goals. The project undertaken by Climact and the ECF to develop and probe the CTI 2050 Roadmap Tool demonstrates that, whilst not easy, the delivery of these pathways is a challenge that Europe is equipped to achieve.

The project seeks to answer the question of ‘how’ we can achieve the required transition and draws three main conclusions:

1. Reaching net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 is feasible

but requires strong action across all sectors, widening the range of low carbon options used for the transition.

2. Net-zero GHG emissions in 2050 requires an increase in 2030 ambition

in order to set Europe on the right trajectory.

3. Net-zero pathways can cost less than business-as-usual

and build a more prosperous, resilient society for EU citizens.

CTI 2050 Roadmap Tool

This project has developed and used a simulation model of European emissions and the mitigation options available now and in the future, analysing possible pathways to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The emissions scope of the model encompasses all sectors of the economy (Power production, industry, buildings, transportation, and Agriculture, Forestry and Land-Use (AFOLU)), and all GHG emissions sources covered by national inventories, including international aviation, shipping, and Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry LULUCF. The model was extensively discussed and tested with a wide range of stakeholders listed below and relies on an extensive literature review.

One of the objectives of this work is to increase the analytical basis available to define the adequate political framework for the low-carbon transition, increasing model transparency, ease of use, the comparability of existing scenarios, and ultimately the access of policy makers to the most useful information for decision making. In this logic, a version of the model directly based on the full simulation model is accessible online. This allows for the pathways used in the analysis to be explored in much greater details, as well as to design and test additional pathways. The webtool can be found at:https://stakeholder.netzero2050.eu.

More than 10 scenarios were modelled by the organisations who supported the model testing, while other scenarios were elaborated by the project team to explore the net-zero opportunities and trade-offs. The conclusions of the report reference three core scenarios:

  • The “Shared-efforts” scenario
  • The “Technology” scenario
  • The “Demand-focus” scenario

Detailed presentations on the sectoral assumptions and model logic:

More details on the CTI 2050 Roadmap Tool’s methodology and scope can be found in the report.

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Contact us: 2050@europeanclimate.org / Erica.hope@europeanclimate.org