Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UN sustainable energy initiative could put world on a path to climate targets

The new study in Nature Climate Change shows that reaching the 3 energy-related objectives proposed by the United Nations in their Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative, launched in 2011, would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and, in combination with other measures, could help keep global temperature rise from exceeding the internationally agreed target level of 2°C.

"Achievement of the 3 objectives would provide an important entry point into stringent climate protection," says Joeri Rogelj, ETH Zurich researcher and IIASA-affiliated scientist, who led the study. The study found that the short-term objectives, which aim for 2030, would help achieve long-term climate targets.

However, to ensure achievement of stringent climate objectives, SE4ALL would need to be complemented by other measures, the researchers say. The SE4All objectives include providing universal access to modern energy, doubling the share of renewable energy globally, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency—all by 2030. While the SE4All objectives do not explicitly address climate change, it is clear that sustainable energy is a prerequisite for reducing greenhouse gas emissions: 80% of human carbon dioxide emissions come from the global energy system, including transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity, heat, and fuel production.

"Doing energy right will promote the Millennium Development Goals, such as poverty eradication and social empowerment, and at the same time kick-start the transition to a lower-carbon economy," says IIASA researcher David McCollum, who also worked on the study. "But the UN's objectives must be complemented by a global agreement on controlling greenhouse gas emissions."

While the UN energy objectives are formulated as global goals, the researchers also note that regional and national actions will be vital to achieving them. IIASA Energy program leader Keywan Riahi and study co-author says, "The next step for this initiative is already underway, with a large number of national plans that underpin the global objectives."

The researchers carried out an analysis to determine how likely we would be to limit climate warming to target levels if each or all of the SE4All objectives were achieved. Using a broad range of scenarios, the researchers found that if all the objectives were met, the likelihood of keeping temperature rise below 2°C would be more than 66%.¬ If only the renewable energy goal is met, chances of keeping temperatures below 2°C would range from 40 to 90%, while achieving just the energy efficiency goal would improve the chances to between 60 and 90%. But the researchers warn that the latter result depends strongly on what economic growth is assumed in the future. The researchers note that the likelihood of reaching climate targets within the scenarios depended on a variety of other factors, including future energy demand growth, economic growth, and technological innovation.

The study also found that providing universal energy access by 2030 will not hinder long-term climate goals, thanks to the marked gains in energy efficiency that will result. "Sustainable development and poverty eradication can go hand in hand with mitigating climate risks," says Rogelj.

The new work also quantified the potential costs for reaching the SE4All objectives, which would amount to increasing energy investments between 0.1 and 0.7% of global GDP. The authors' estimates account for the substantial savings in energy use and reduced fossil energy investments that would come about through the promotion of more sustainable energy technologies and lifestyles.

Note to editors
The study used an analysis framework called Integrated Assessment Modeling (IAM), which combines economic, geophysical, biological, social, and engineering science to systematically analyze possible future developments in the human-earth system from a broad perspective. In this study, the researchers used IIASA's energy model MESSAGE along with the probabilistic climate model MAGICC. More than 500 detailed scenarios were developed, building upon the recently released Global Energy Assessment.


Rogelj, J., D.L. McCollum, and K. Riahi, 2013, "The UN’s ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative is compatible with a warming limit of 2 °C," Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1806.

For more information please contact:

Joeri Rogelj
Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich
Tel: +41 44 632 82 79
Keywan Riahi
IIASA Energy Program Leader
Tel: +43(0) 2236 807 491
Mob: +43 676 83 807 491
David McCollum
IIASA Research Scholar, Energy Program
Tel: +43(0) 2236 807 586
Katherine Leitzell
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316
About IIASA:
IIASA is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe.

Katherine Leitzell | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>