1 February, 2013

The UN's 'Sustainable Energy for All' initiative is compatible with a warming limit of 2°C


Joeri Rogelj, David L. McCollum, Keywan Riahi

Progress towards climate protection has been modest over the past decades despite the ever-increasing urgency for concerted action against global warming. Partly as a response to this, but more directly as a means to promote sustainable development and poverty eradication, the United Nations has initiated a process to promote three global energy objectives: energy access, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Here we discuss the consistency of the proposed energy-related objectives with the overarching climate goal of limiting global temperature increase to below 2 °C.

We find that achieving the three energy objectives could provide an important entry point to climate protection, and that sustainability and poverty eradication can go hand in hand with mitigating climate risks. Using energy indicators as the sole metrics for climate action may, however, ultimately fall short of the mark: eventually, only limits on cumulative greenhouse gas emissions will lead to stringent climate protection.