A low-carbon society for prosperity and energy security

The European Climate Foundation (ECF) – a ‘foundation of foundations’ – was established in early 2008 as a major philanthropic initiative to help Europe foster the development of a low-carbon society and play an even stronger international leadership role to mitigate climate change.

InterdependenceSupporting the development of a low-carbon society

In a low-carbon society, citizens would live and work in energy efficient buildings with intelligent heating and cooling systems. People would drive electric and hybrid cars and live in cleaner cities with less air pollution and better public transport. Industries would be characterised by high levels of efficiency and lower emissions. Besides cutting the vast majority of its emissions, Europe would reduce its use of key resources like oil and gas, raw materials, land and water. This, in turn, would lessen dependency on energy imports and contribute to increased economic stability and security of supply.

Staying below 2°C of warming relative to pre-industrial levels

However, at current rates of atmospheric pollution, climate change will decisively alter the environment and standards of living. According to estimates by the IPCC, global annual emissions will rise from today’s 50 Gt CO2 to 68 Gt CO2 by 2030 if current trends continue. During the coming 15 years, annual emissions will need to be scaled down to 42 Gt CO2 if we are to stand a chance of staying below 2°C of warming relative to pre-industrial levels and prevent major climate instabilities, economic and social harm, and existential risks.

Balancing climate protection, energy security and economic growth

The core challenge is to address path dependencies in the transition and find a balance among climate change mitigation, energy security needs, and competitiveness and growth challenges. While a clean energy system lies at the heart of a low-carbon society, existing energy systems based predominantly on fossil fuels have been built up and optimised over decades. Beyond step-by-step improvements, decarbonisation comes with fundamental character changes in terms of energy choices, infrastructure and sector integration, and energy market designs. Systems and markets will have to be redeveloped in Europe and around the world.