Forecast models on the effects of climate change on society and the environment are complex and can yield different results. EU-funded researchers have analysed these scenarios and found overwhelming evidence that taking action sooner rather than later reduces the costs of mitigation. Their research aims to help policymakers make informed decisions to mitigate climate change.
Energy-economy model assessments can inform policy discussions with insights into the costs of decisive climate change mitigation as well as the costs of delaying action. The EU-funded AMPEREproject, which ended in January 2014, studied a diverse range of scenarios and was able to demonstrate that taking action sooner rather than later will reduce the costs of climate change mitigation.
Mitigation actions are designed to limit the magnitude of long-term climate change, and generally involve reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. Mitigation strategies include switching to low-carbon energy sources, such as renewable and nuclear energy, and expanding forests to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The project’s findings are important for the EU, says project coordinator Elmar Kriegler of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Studies, Germany.
“As European leaders discuss the EU’s 2030 climate policy framework and prepare for the crucial Paris COP 21 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) in 2015, the results of AMPERE are expected to provide timely insights,” says Kriegler.
He adds: “The results from several models indicate that the EU could afford unilateral ambitious climate action and that overall carbon leakage would likely be small. If other major emitters reciprocate, a strong signal by the EU can effectively limit global warming. Europe can signal the will for strong emission reductions at manageable economic costs. However, European decarbonisation requires strong 2030 targets and holds challenges as well as opportunities for Europe.”
The way to a low-carbon economy
While Europe needs to move towards a low-carbon economy if it is to reach ambitious climate goals, the implications of such a transition have been far from obvious. An important contribution from AMPERE has been to examine plausible scenarios of international policy dynamics, says Kriegler.
The project achieved this by looking at global and regional climate mitigation pathways and associated costs through a series of multi-model comparisons. These take into account the complexities of technological developments and economic interactions relevant to climate policy as a means of developing more accurate cost estimates.
The project assessed 17 internationally recognised energy-economy and integrated assessment models, each with their own unique strengths and limitations. By comparing these models, the team was able to explain some of the underlying causes of differences between them, and their implications for policy assessments.
“The results have improved our understanding of possible pathways toward medium- and long-term climate targets at the global and European levels,” says Kriegler. “Key research questions included the emissions budgets that specific climate targets allow; the impact of short-term climate policies on the achievability of such targets; the economic implications of unilateral regional mitigation, with a focus on Europe; and the roles of different technologies.”
AMPERE’s results have since been used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for its fifth assessment report in 2013. This report provides a global overview of the current state of scientific knowledge on climate change.
“AMPERE provided the IPPC with relevant insights on the consequences of delayed mitigation, along with a large number of scenarios that were all assessed in the report,” says Kriegler.
The detailed AMPERE findings have been published in a 2014 special issue of the international journal ‘Technological Forecasting and Social Change’.