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


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.

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Figure 1: Joint influence of carbon intensity and energy intensity improvements for limiting global temperature.
Figure 2: Consistency of the three SE4ALL energy objectives with a global temperature limit of 2 °C.
Figure 3: Global contributions of key technologies to primary energy supply in scenarios consistent with 2 °C.
Figure 4: Regional differences in energy indicator values in our 2 °C-consistent scenarios that meet both the energy efficiency and renewable energy SE4ALL objectives.


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We thank N. Nakicenovic, L. Gomez-Echeverri, J. Jewell and V. Krey for discussions about initial research questions, and P. Kolp for his technical support. J.R. was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (project 200021-135067) and the IIASA Peccei Award Grant.

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J.R. and K.R. designed the research; J.R. performed the research; all authors contributed to writing the paper. D.L.M. and K.R. are listed in alphabetical order.

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Correspondence to Joeri Rogelj.

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Rogelj, J., McCollum, D. & Riahi, K. The UN's 'Sustainable Energy for All' initiative is compatible with a warming limit of 2 °C. Nature Clim Change 3, 545–551 (2013).

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