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Net zero by 2050: From whether to how

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This report is based on a research seeking to explore the feasibility and implications for the EU of reaching net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 at the latest.


This report is based on the development and use of 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.


For each sector of the EU economy that emits GHGs, the GHG emissions drivers and means of reducing them – referred to as ‘levers’ – were modelled.

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.


Out of these scenarios, three typical pathways were selected to illustrate the conclusions of this report.


All three reach net-zero emissions by 2050.


1) The “Shared efforts” scenario: A comparable level of effort is maintained across sectors and levers, i.e., there is no emphasis on any specific mitigation option. Where conclusions are illustrated in the text with only one scenario, it is the Shared efforts scenario unless otherwise indicated.


2) The “Technology” scenario: Emphasises efficiency and innovative technological options by raising their ambition to the highest levels (e.g., energy efficiency, electrification, hydrogen, carbon capture, and storage (CCS) ). It leads to -41% energy demand in 2050.


3) The “Demand-focus” scenario: Demand-side levers are used here to reduce the overall demand further, e.g., for energy (-64% by 2050), products, or meat, which implies that technological levers can be reduced compared to the Shared efforts scenario.


Findings show that not only is it technically possible, but that the net-zero future is likely to be both economically beneficial, and desirable on many other grounds.


However, it requires a collective commitment to transformational action and without delay.