How the Different Energy Policy Choices and Technological Solutions Affect GreenHouse Gas Emissions Reduction?


Mar 18 2022

Written by Axens

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Carbon Capture and Storage, Solution for hard-to-abate emissions


Several third parties have analyzed CCUS impact. The scenarios of the International Energy Agency (IEA) provide benchmarks to underline how the different energy policy choices and technological solutions affect emissions reduction.

The IEA has recently introduced new scenarios in the 2020 and 2021 versions of the World Energy Outlook (WEO). They include Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 (NZE2050) and the Announced Pledges Scenario (APS), as well as the well-known STEPS and SDS scenarios.


Understanding WEO Scenarios



Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario

Announced Pledges Scenario


Stated-Policies Scenario


Sustainable Development Scenario


Definition A scenario which
sets out a narrow but achievable pathway for the global energy
sector to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. It doesn’t rely on emissions
reductions from outside the energy sector to achieve its goals.
A scenario which assumes that all climate commitments made by governments around the world, including Nationally
Determined Contributions (NDCs) and longer-term net zero targets, will be met in full and on time.
A scenario which
reflects current policy settings based on a sector-by-sector
assessment of the specific policies that are in place, as well as those that have been announced by governments around the world.
An integrated scenario specifying a pathway aiming at: ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services by 2030
(SDG 7); substantially
reducing air pollution (SDG 3.9); and taking effective action
to combat climate change (SDG 13).


Global energy-related CO2 emissions in the 2021 WEO scenarios


In 2020, following the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the IEA estimated a 7% decrease in CO2eq emissions from the energy sector. This decrease due to the lockdown of many countries and the slowdown of economic activity represents what would be necessary in the NZE2050 scenario (shown by the light green curve – figure 1) although the solutions to be implemented are very different in a situation with higher economic growth and GDP.



Figure 1 - Global energy-related CO2 emissions in the 2021 WEO scenarios (Source: IEA – World Energy Outlook, 2021)

  • In the STEPS, global energy-related and industrial process CO2 emissions bounce back quickly in 2021 and rise to 36 gigatonnes (Gt) by 2030.
  • In the APS, emissions peak in the mid-2020s and return to just under 34 Gt, close to current levels, by 2030.
  • In contrast, NZE2050 shows emissions falling to 21 Gt in 2030, marking a decisive change of direction.

Therefore, compared to the STEPS or even the APS scenario, significant additional GHG emission reduction efforts are clearly required to achieve NZE2050 expectations (net zero emissions by 2050).


A target attainable through a wide range of solutions


This target could be attainable through a wide range of solutions and decarbonization technologies, besides CCUS deployment, including energy efficiency, renewables (solar, wind, biofuels, etc.), fuel switching and others, such as transport electrification or population behavior change.


Application of a combination of solutions will depend on government policies, incentives and technology development to limit environmental impact and meet climate targets.


Figure 2 shows the range of solutions that should be put in place to reduce CO2eq emissions from the energy sector and industrial processes with the corresponding average annual CO2 reductions from 2020 in the NZE scenario.



Figure 2 - Average annual CO2 reductions from 2020 in the NZE Scenario (Source: Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector, International Energy Agency – IAE, May 2021)


Among the range of solutions, CCUS, adding the ‘Utilization’ component to the CO2 captured and stored, will deliver further emissions abatement. Chemical fertilizers, polymers manufactured with recycled carbon feedstock, concrete manufacturing, clean hydrogen, Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), and food and beverage applications are some of the many examples of CO2 utilization pathways that are still under development. In that respect, CCUS offers a key opportunity to accelerate the reduction of GHG emissions in the transition period.


In the SDS scenario, IEA anticipates that a cumulative emissions reduction of around 5.4 billion tonnes per annum of CO2 captured and permanently stored by 2050. This forecast highlights the need to retrofit and deploy carbon capture technologies together with low-carbon technologies.


In all the scenarios developed by the IEA and other entities to keep the global temperature rise well below 2°C, CCUS plays a substantial role in achieving the ambitious goals of GHG emissions reduction.



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