Background to the Roadmap to Decarbonisation Report by Paolo Carnevale
I was honored to present the Report issued by FEEM and SDSN, Roadmap to 2050: A Manual for Countries to Decarbonize by Mid-Century, at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Leadership Council hosted by SDSN on September 26-27, 2019 at Columbia University during the NY Climate Week 2019.
This Report is one of a kind, because it attempts to provide concrete indications and applicable solutions on the basis of which different countries, with very different development levels and economic situations, can begin to set down their roadmap to decarbonization by mid-century.
Genesis of the Report
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 Report stated, “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei picked up the challenge and promoted a joint effort with Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
The result of the joint effort was the organization of the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN) Workshop on 2nd – 3rd April, 2019 at FEEM headquarters in Milan, Italy.
The crucial question underlying the workshop was: is decarbonisation possible with the technologies available today (and/or with their natural evolution in the next 5 years), without considering possible, future, breakthrough technologies?
Technical experts from all over the world were invited to the workshop, because scientists and engineers have the technical expertise needed to plan and implement a sustainable pathway forward towards total decarbonization.
The participation of economists, politicians and opinion leaders was not envisaged, because while they are important for the environmental, social and economic aspects of the decarbonisation process, they lack the technical knowledge needed to understand its actual feasibility.
The background scenario used was the Sustainable Development Scenario developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) . The IEA scenario was selected because it argues that gas should be used for the transition from fossil fuels until 2050, especially in developing countries, where the main issue is not clean energy but access to energy, as opposed to other, more drastic northern European models, which do not provide for the use of fossil fuels after 2030.
The strong theme was the “leaving no one behind” principle, and the great thing about this report is that it is does not push for decarbonisation at all costs. In the Western world we can tax carbon emissions to encourage the use of renewables, but this is not possible in other parts of the Planet, where the main problem is the access to energy. In some situations, photovoltaic systems have prohibitive costs, while other energy sources, such as coal, are more convenient. Decarbonisation comes second to access to energy.
The leap forward in the Western world spanned two centuries. We cannot expect developing countries to pay for the associated costs of pollution of the West. It would be a situation similar to climate apartheid: rich countries decide the rules and poor countries have to adapt. There are different time frames and modalities.
There is no same recipe for everyone, it varies according to the country and time frame.
Our Report indicates the technologies available and their possible application, it describes different alternatives for different countries with clear objectives and feasibility.
Paolo Carnevale, FEEM Executive Director