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Alternative pathways to the 1.5 °C target reduce the need for negative emission technologies


Mitigation scenarios that achieve the ambitious targets included in the Paris Agreement typically rely on greenhouse gas emission reductions combined with net carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere, mostly accomplished through large-scale application of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and afforestation. However, CDR strategies face several difficulties such as reliance on underground CO2 storage and competition for land with food production and biodiversity protection. The question arises whether alternative deep mitigation pathways exist. Here, using an integrated assessment model, we explore the impact of alternative pathways that include lifestyle change, additional reduction of non-CO2 greenhouse gases and more rapid electrification of energy demand based on renewable energy. Although these alternatives also face specific difficulties, they are found to significantly reduce the need for CDR, but not fully eliminate it. The alternatives offer a means to diversify transition pathways to meet the Paris Agreement targets, while simultaneously benefiting other sustainability goals.

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Fig. 1: GHG emission for the baseline and mitigation scenarios.
Fig. 2: CO2 emissions for the baseline and mitigation scenarios.
Fig. 3: Transformations in land use/cover and energy use.
Fig. 4: The use of BECCS in mitigation scenarios.

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D.P.v.V. supervised the work and developed the original idea. All authors were involved in the design of the experiments, the model analysis and contributed to the writing of the article.

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Correspondence to Detlef P. van Vuuren.

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van Vuuren, D.P., Stehfest, E., Gernaat, D.E.H.J. et al. Alternative pathways to the 1.5 °C target reduce the need for negative emission technologies. Nature Clim Change 8, 391–397 (2018).

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