Press release

World can cut carbon emissions and live well

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Cutting carbon emissions to limit global temperatures to a 2°C rise can be achieved while improving living standards, a new online tool shows.

Cutting carbon emissions to limit global temperatures to a 2°C rise can be achieved while improving living standards, a new online tool shows.

The world can eat well, travel more, live in more comfortable homes, and meet international carbon reduction commitments according to the Global Calculator tool, a project led by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change and co-funded by Climate-KIC.

Built in collaboration with a number of international organisations from US, China, India and Europe, the calculator is an interactive tool for businesses, NGOs and governments to consider the options for cutting carbon emissions and the trade-offs for energy and land use to 2050.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said:

“For the first time this Global Calculator shows that everyone in the world can prosper while limiting global temperature rises to 2°C, preventing the most serious impacts of climate change.

“Yet the calculator is also very clear that we must act now to change how we use and generate energy and how we use our land if we are going to achieve this green growth.

“The UK is leading on climate change both at home and abroad. Britain’s global calculator can help the world’s crucial climate debate this year. Along with the many country-based 2050 calculators we pioneered, we are working hard to demonstrate to the global family that climate action benefits people.”

Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd said:

“This Global Calculator is unique for three reasons. It has been built in collaboration with a range of international organisations - from China to India and the US. It is open, with its data fully available to the public, and it is also simple enough for everyone to use.”

Dr Mike Cherrett, Director of Operations and International Partnerships at Climate-KIC, said:

“The calculator clearly highlights that we can meet our 2°C target while maintaining good lifestyles – but we need to set ambitious targets on all fronts and use innovation to address climate change.

“The challenge to find new commercially-viable business models is considerable – but for those organisations who succeed, the reward is even greater. The calculator provides a framework for policy makers and business leaders to create an environment where this is possible.”

Using data reviewed by over 150 international experts, this free and interactive tool shows that despite expectations that the world’s population will rise from 7 billion currently to 10 billion by 2050, it is physically possible for everyone to have a good standard of living while limiting global temperature rises to 2°C.

However, the tool shows that to be successful the world needs to act now and transform the technologies and fuels we use and make smarter use of our land for food, forestry and fuel.

For example the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of electricity globally would need to fall by at least 90% and our forests protected and expanded by 5-15% by 2050.

Notes for editors

  • More information on the DECC 2oC scenario.

  • Reports on Global Calculator Sector Digest and Global Calculator Report.

  • Good lifestyle definition: in our report we have defined a “good lifestyle” to mean that world average lifestyle indicators around transport (e.g. how far people travel) and homes (e.g. how comfortably heated/cooled they are and how many appliances they have) continue to improve along a business as usual pathway (in this case the International Energy Agency’s 6°C Scenario) from now to 2050. For diet, the world average food intake continues to increase as projected by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, which by 2050 would exceed the levels recommended by the WHO for a healthy, active lifestyle. In general, lifestyle indicators move towards the current levels seen in developed countries such as Europe. Please note that as the Global Calculator looks at world averages only, this could mean that inequality has reduced by 2050 (with more people living close to this higher average lifestyle), or it could still mean that there is a lot of variation between countries as seen today (for example with over-consumption of food in some areas and under-consumption in others).

  • In 2010, DECC published the “UK 2050 Calculator”, a simple and transparent online tool that allows anyone to explore all the potential energy futures for the UK to 2050, and the impacts on energy security, costs, land use, air quality and emissions. This tool was used to explore and communicate the options for the UK’s energy system to 2050, within the UK Government’s 2011 “Carbon Plan”.

  • The UK Calculator has also proved useful outside government. For example, organisations such as Friends of the Earth and the National Grid have used it to better understand the choices and trade-offs facing the UK.

  • The tool has been so successful that even other countries have adopted the approach themselves, some with DECC’s support using International Climate Fund finance. There are now around 20 governments who have developed or are developing their own country-level calculator, and there are some notable successes:

  • China has been using their calculator to support the development of their government’s economic and energy strategy, and to train their officials on the energy challenges facing their country.

  • The India tool has received support from the top of the Indian Government. For example, the then deputy chairman of the Indian Planning Commission stated, “I hope the India Energy Security Scenarios 2047 will help generate informed debate on energy policy issues”.

  • Colombian officials spoke at the 20th Conference of Parties in Lima, in December 2014, about how they plan to use it to develop their Intended National Determined Contributions for emissions cuts.

  • Vietnam are so keen on the approach that they are going to roll out the methodology at a provincial level in 2015.

  • South Africa will be using their version of My2050 as part of a major national campaign to promote environmental education in schools, quoting at the launch event: “The tool will empower South Africans to make informed choices that contribute to a transition to a lower carbon economy and society”.

The country-level calculator tools are very useful, however they cannot tell us what actions add up at a global level, and the risks we face if we do not take action to reduce global emissions. This is why DECC, with joint funding from Climate KIC, has led a range of global partners to build a global version.

Climate-KIC

Climate-KIC is the EU’s main climate innovation initiative. It is Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on mitigating and adapting to climate change. Climate-KIC consists of companies, academic institutions and the public sector.

The organisation has its headquarters in London, UK, and leverages its centres across Europe to support start-up companies, to bring together partners on innovation projects and to educate students to bring about a connected, creative transformation of knowledge and ideas into products and services that help mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Climate-KIC currently has centres in France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark and the UK and is represented in the regions of Valencia, Central Hungary, Emilia Romagna, Lower Silesia, Hessen and the West Midlands.

Climate-KIC is one of the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) created in 2010 by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the EU body tasked with creating sustainable European growth while dealing with the global challenges of our time.

The Team

The Global Calculator was built by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, Climate-KIC, the International Energy Agency, the Energy Research Institute (China), the World Resources Institute, Ernst & Young, Imperial College London, London School of Economics, Potsdam Institute, Climact, Climate Media Factory, Rothamsted Research, Walker Institute, the UK National Environment Research Council, the UK National Oceanography Centre, the UK Met Office and Universite de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines. In addition, over 150 experts from around the world were consulted during the course of building the model.

Try the tool

Find out more about the project