Narrative-driven alternative roads to achieve mid-century CO2 net neutrality in Europe

The tightened climate mitigation targets of the EU green deal raise an important question: Which strategy should be used to achieve carbon emissions net neutrality? This study explores stakeholder-designed narratives of the future energy system development within the deep decarbonization context. European carbon net-neutrality goals are put under test in a model comparison exercise using state of the art Energy-Environment-Economy (E3) models: ETM-UCL, PRIMES and REMIND. Results show that while achieving the transition to carbon neutrality by mid-century is feasible under quite different future energy systems, some robust commonalities emerge. Electrification of end use sectors combined with large-scale expansion of renewable energy is a no-regret decision for all strategies; Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) plays an important role for achieving net-neutral targets under all scenarios, but is most relevant when demand-side changes are limited; hydrogen and synthetic fuels can be a relevant mitigation option for mid-century mitigation in hard-to-abate sectors; energy efficiency can reduce the supply system strain. Finally, high carbon prices (300–900€/tCO2) are needed under all strategies in order to achieve carbon net neutrality in 2050.

Written by Renato Rodrigues, Robert Pietzcker, Panagiotis Fragkos, James Price, Will McDowall, Pelopidas Siskos, Theofano Fotiou, Gunnar Luderer and Pantelis Capros

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