The partners of the ENGAGE project held an Asian Stakeholder Workshop on Thursday, September 16, 2021 and Friday, September 17, 2021 wherein the partners presented new research results while collecting fruitful inputs from the 83 stakeholders, hailing from different parts of East, South, and Southeast Asia, on the feasibility and equity of national decarbonization targets.
The Stakeholder Workshop materials can be found here on the ENGAGE website. The page includes the presentations given by the expert partners as well as recordings from the workshop, links to feasibility models, and supplementary reading.
On March 29 – 30, 2023, a Stakeholder Dialogue was held in the Serrambi Resort, near the city of Recife, Brazil. The aim of the meeting was to present and discuss results from the ENGAGE project with key stakeholders from Brazil and Latin America. The meeting was attended by 28 stakeholders and 27 ENGAGE project members.
In the first session of the meeting, Roberto Schaeffer (COPPE) presented results from the COFFEE- TEA modelling framework, which show that Latin America becomes net zero roughly 10 years before the rest of the world. A particularly interesting result is that biomass is especially important for transport and industry, with the transport sector relying on biofuels for up to 60% of its final energy. This contrasts with the electrification observed in other regions (e.g., China, Europe, US). The model results also show that when different burden-sharing schemes to allocate the remaining carbon budget for limiting global average temperature increase are explored, Brazil reaches net zero up to 20 years later than when following a global least-cost approach.
Group discussions after this presentation focussed on Latin American perspectives regarding the future of fossil fuels, poverty alleviation, economic development priorities, the energy transition and R&D, and land use and deforestation. These discussions highlighted the diversity of the region and the inequality within it leading to the need for a just transition of the energy system; the importance of fiscal revenues for many countries; and the potential for stranded assets. Financing was seen as a crucial element, with many opportunities for investing in infrastructure and new technologies in developing countries. The dependence of the poorest on fossil fuels, while being most vulnerable to climate impacts, is another significant challenge in the region. Cultural aspects and a “development first, pay later” paradigm were mentioned as factors constraining individual change. To address deforestation, particularly in Brazil where land-grabbing is responsible for some 70-80% of total forests lost, participants suggested strong government regulations and financial incentives, such as carbon markets and taxes, as well as the use of new techniques in the agricultural sector.
The first day of the meeting ended with a survey administered by Elina Brutschin (IIASA) to gauge stakeholders’ preferences for particular scenarios, as part of work on just transitions. This was followed by a presentation by Ed Byers (IIASA) of the work on the Climate Solutions Explorer (CSE) being carried out by the ENGAGE project (https://www.climate-solutions-explorer.eu/). A poster session then provided participants with the opportunity to discuss a variety of work carried out within the ENGAGE project and was closed with a facilitated reflection on the discussions on the first day.
Key points from the discussion included:
Municipalities and communities that rely on the oil industry for revenue face challenges during the transition. While they do not receive taxes directly from oil production, they benefit from taxes related to the sale of oil and gasoline and need to explore alternative sources of income.
There are many political responses to climate change, including new policies, instruments, energy market designs, and regulations to promote a faster transition to net zero emissions. However, it is not clear to society what has already been achieved. Perhaps we need to change the way we communicate to the public about the progress made but also about the future scenarios.
There is a need for public policies that can improve the lives of people, especially the poor and marginalised, while decarbonizing. Reality checks are hitherto missing.
There are different levels of institutional capacity and economic situations among Latin American countries. However, all countries face vulnerability to climate change impacts and wealth inequalities. Working together, decision-makers and academics can bridge knowledge gaps.
Complex challenges are ahead of us. Models are not able to incorporate all of the complexity of the real world. Other methods are needed to take issues like inequality, quality of life and human behaviour into account and complement the models with narratives.
Results from the ENGAGE project also underline the need to take a broader perspective than only focussing on climate change in order to ensure that proposed solutions do not create other environmental problems.
The second day of the meeting started with a presentation by Alexandre Szklo (COPPE) on the decarbonization plan for Pernambuco state. Based on the downscaling of global models and results from one Brazilian model. The results showed that the barriers to reducing emissions include: unburned fossil resources (stranded assets); carbon lock-in; and equity (just transition) issues. Furthermore, model results suggested that investments in new oil refineries could be necessary. In the discussion, attention focussed on the “hard-to-abate sectors”, for which high abatement costs seem to be a major barrier to reducing emissions.
This was followed by a “storytelling session”. Samanta Della Bella (General Manager of Climate Change. Secretary of Environment and Sustainability of Pernambuco) described her experience in Pernambuco state in the Northeast of Brazil, a region facing desertification and high poverty rates. A trajectory was planned until 2050, based on socio-economic modelling. Short- and long-term indicators were established. The main challenges are implementing and monitoring the plan. Creating the roadmap was personally demanding, requiring patience, communication, and a commitment to moving forward.
Jhonathan Godoy (Coordinator, local HUB Pernambuco of the Youth Climate Leaders) shared the story of the Climate Professional Day in the Youth Climate Leaders organisation. As a facilitator and coordinator, he aimed to discuss climate-related work on various levels beyond academia and research. They developed an educational project to study the mangroves in his city. The team discovered the importance of mangroves in carbon sequestration and how deforestation of the ecosystem led to flooding, affecting the lives and income of the communities living near them. To raise awareness, they collaborated with local artists to create a web documentary that explored environmental and social issues. The initiative served as an eye-opening experience for those in the community who previously did not associate their challenges with climate change.
Andres Akerberg (Executive Director Política y Legislación Ambiental (POLEA), Mexico City) described how he worked closely with decision-makers to promote climate legislation at the national level in Mexico. Over the course of three years, his team successfully updated Mexico’s climate law and implemented new laws in 11 out of 32 states. The process is still ongoing in another seven states and has also served as a form of “collective therapy,” as Andres described it, going beyond technical and legal aspects to engage as many people as possible.
In the discussion after these three stories, more stories were added by other participants, including from Eva Marina Valencia Leñero, who worked to create a coalition in Mexico City focused on the concept of doughnut economics. Further discussions focussed on the issue of deforestation in Brazil, which is complex and requires that loopholes in regulations are addressed. Tackling the deforestation issue requires a holistic approach that considers the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of the problem.
The meeting ended with a “World Café“ discussing a series of “hot topics” that had been identified during the meeting.
At a table focussing on the use of models, the participants emphasised the need to improve integrated assessment models by addressing their limitations, incorporating broader sustainable development aspects, and better reflecting real-world complexities, such as human behaviour and uncertainty. At a second table on cross-scale linkages, the discussion highlighted the need for a coordinated approach to sustainable development that connects top-down and bottom-up policies, considers local specificities, and promotes capacity building and technological development at all levels. This linked to a third table that focussed on the interplay between the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mitigation efforts to achieve a low-carbon, 1.5oC scenario. A fourth group discussed key feasibility concerns with respect to decarbonization at the national level and concluded that institutional concerns, particularly law enforcement, are the primary feasibility issue, with examples from Brazil and Mexico highlighting the volatility of enforcement depending on the political regime. The group also noted the challenges faced by top-down approaches, which may not consider local community needs, and the importance of combining them with bottom-up approaches for success.
In a final round, participants were asked to reflect on the meeting. Participants felt that the meeting demonstrated the need for dialogue and communication to strengthen cooperation in achieving societal goals, while also showing the challenge of communicating complex information. Members of the ENGAGE project team noted their learning about Latin America as a whole, including the interest of several countries in the region in producing more ambitious decarbonization plans. The team members also noted the discussions about the usefulness of models in thinking consistently about the future, while recognizing that the use of models is only one part of supporting the transition to a low-carbon future. Looking ahead, while it is clear that other states and countries could benefit from the use of integrated assessment models and approaches, there is a need for capacity building in the Latin American region to develop the models and continue the dialogue between researchers and other stakeholders.
The stakeholder workshop on progress and cutting-edge issues with respect to China’s climate change and co-benefit policy, hosted by the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation (NCSC), was held in Beijing on June 29. The meeting was a face-to-face event with additional broad online participation and was chaired by Chai Qimin, Director of the Strategy and Planning Department of NCSC, and Tian Danyu, Deputy Director.
Opening remarks were made by Xu Huaqing, Director of NCSC; Vicky Pollard, European Commission; Liu Yang, Director of Strategy Division, Department of Climate Change, Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE); and, on behalf of the ENGAGE project, Bas van Ruijven.
Xu Huaqing noted that the updated Nationally Determined Contribution plan developed by NCSC was adopted by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and The State Council. In this plan, China carbon dioxide emissions should peak before 2030, carbon neutrality should be achieved before 2060 and by 2030 carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP will be reduced by more than 65% compared with 2005. The proportion of non-fossil energy in primary energy consumption will reach about 25%, the forest stock will increase by 6 billion cubic meters over 2005, and the total installed capacity of wind power and solar power will reach more than 1.2 billion kilowatts.
After an opening session, the first part of the workshop started with a series of presentations that focused on carbon emission reduction and pollution reduction in China under different policy scenarios. This was followed by short contributions from participants that addressed the following questions: What are the latest developments in China’s policies and actions to address climate change? What are the main synergies between reducing pollution and carbon emission? What are the key policies or key issues that deserve attention in follow-up research?
The second part of the workshop then focused on emission reduction pathways in the industry, energy, construction, and transportation sectors. After five short presentations, participants discussed the medium and long-term emission reduction policies for key industries in China, the impact of the synergistic policies implemented in China to reduce carbon and pollution and the prospects for new power systems and hydrogen energy development.
The workshop participants included policy makers, representatives from business, industry and environmental NGOs, and academia. It provided an excellent opportunity to exchange information on ongoing research on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Finally, after almost two years of online meetings, the ENGAGE project organized a face-to-face stakeholder dialogue. Hosted by PBL in the Hague, the meeting was attended by 23 stakeholders (of which four joined online) and supported by 10 members of the project team for a total of 37 participants.
In an opening warm-up round, participants were asked to briefly voice their expectations for the upcoming UNFCCC Conference of Parties in Egypt. Many said that they had low expectations and others expressed their hopes for raising ambition and real commitments, a focus on climate justice, getting major emitters on board and science remaining the guiding force.
The first session focused on the current hot topic of Energy Security. Alessia de Vita (E3 Modelling) presented results of modelling the RePowerEU strategy, comparing the results with a reference scenario (2019) and the Fit for 55 (2021) strategy. The participants then discussed the results that were presented, emphasizing topics such as the need to accelerate the supply of renewable energy and to reduce demand through efficiency measures in a circular economy, the different starting points in EU countries and the implications of demand for materials from outside the EU. A common topic across the groups was the risk that short-term strategies would not be aligned with long-term goals and the challenge to improve energy security while also decarbonizing. The importance of behavioural change and also of avoiding lock-in effects with a switch to liquid natural gas in the short-term were also common across discussion groups.
The second session focused on an ongoing stream of work in the ENGAGE project: to develop a website and data dashboard, the Climate Solutions Explorer (CSE). The website will enable visualization and comparison of spatial climate impacts data. The National Dashboard pages are designed to enable comparison of mitigation pathways and (avoided) climate impacts. The Net Zero Stories section of the website will include analysis of trade-offs, co-benefits and avoided impacts from the ENGAGE national modelling partners. These stories highlight national perspectives on the pathways to net-zero and discuss important co-benefits and trade-offs for key sectors such as air pollution & health, water, energy security, and land & biodiversity. Ed Byers (IIASA) presented the current status of the CSE to get feedback on the design and content. The participants showed strong interest in this tool for disseminating results from the ENGAGE project and provided a large number of ideas both for enhancing the functionality of the website and also the qualitative and quantitative content. The participants emphasized that the language used should be accessible to a broad range of potential users. They suggested that the use of narratives is attractive and that more stories could be added. It will be important, according to the stakeholders, to provide more examples of the benefits of climate change mitigation, while ensuring that the messages conveyed are consistent across the platform. This input from stakeholders comes just at the right time in the development of the CSE!
In the final session, the meeting turned to the topic of effort sharing. Zoi Vrontisi (E3 Modelling) presented results from the ENGAGE project based on including different effort-sharing mechanisms in integrated assessment models. The modelling results show that if the goal is to keep the global temperature increase below 2oC, there is little difference in terms of GDP impacts between a cost-optimal solution and other effort-sharing mechanisms. This was followed by a short presentation prepared by Silvia Pianta (CMCC) on the results of surveys on preferences for the different effort-sharing mechanisms carried out online and during several stakeholder workshops in the ENGAGE project. The group discussions after the presentations focused on issues and questions raised by the first presentation. One group discussed new ideas for effort sharing. These included: go beyond a monetary (GDP) and nation-based approach to look at social and environmental capital; effort sharing should focus on private corporations; and a per capita based approach in which the effort is made by the rich. Another group discussed the projected costs of effort sharing, noting that the cost calculations should also include the co-benefits, such as reduction of air pollution or increase of employment and that the choice of reference scenario matters when costs of effort sharing are calculated. A third group discussed the short-term feasibility of implementing effort sharing mechanisms, pointing out that it is important to consider “feasibility for whom?” In the short term, coalitions could be a feasible way forward and in the private sector there could be opportunities for effort sharing.
After an intensive day of presentations and discussions, Bas van Ruijven (IIASA) closed the meeting by thanking all participants for the very productive meeting that will without question inspire further work in the last year of the ENGAGE project.
The ENGAGE series of stakeholder dialogues continued in April 2022 with an online meeting on decarbonization pathways in Latin America and Brazil. The meeting was organized in 4 sessions and discussed modelling results, the feasibility of rapid decarbonization and a broad range of issues related to burden-sharing. With a total of 53 stakeholders and ENGAGE partners from all work packages, the presentations, discussions and surveys carried out during the meeting brought up key issues with respect to the achievement of decarbonization goals that are also relevant for future research.
Starting with a short presentation by Joeri Rogelj about the term “net-zero” and the importance of being clear about whether we are talking about “net-zero carbon emissions” or “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions”, the first session then focused on modelling results on decarbonization pathways in Latin America and Brazil. The focus of the presentation by Roberto Schaeffer was a scenario in which global CO2 emissions achieve net-zero in 2060. This allows for higher CO2 emissions globally until 2050 but thereafter carbon dioxide removal technologies are required if the Paris goals are to be achieved. The modeling results, based on a global and national (for Brazil) “least-cost” logic, show, however, that while global emissions reach net-zero CO2 in 2060, Latin America reaches net-zero CO2 emissions by 2040. This is achieved, for example, through a very large increase in the share of renewable energy in total primary energy supply.
These results were discussed in breakout groups. Key points raised in these lively discussions were:
Extra efforts and political will are necessary in order to develop consistent climate policy, regulatory advances and long-term strategies. Each country in Latin America faces different challenges in this respect. Political will would be strengthened, if there were a critical mass of people asking for change. For implementation of decarbonization pathways, access to information, data and good practices is needed. International cooperation, finance and responsible carbon markets would support the transformation to net-zero CO2 emissions. Furthermore, it would be important to align national and subnational initiatives, as well as public and private (civil society and business)initiatives.
There are many reasons why a systems approach to tackling the challenges of decarbonization will be necessary. For example, a major transformation of the food system in Europe would have implications for food production systems in Brazil. Similarly, decarbonization of industry in Latin America depends in some sectors on international demand. The necessary sustainable transformation of land use also requires a systems approach.
In Latin America agriculture is a major sector of the economy, causing high emissions levels through, for example, livestock herding and deforestation. In the short term, there is an absence of policies to deal with these emissions.
In many cases, the necessary technology is available but implementation and upscaling are needed. The upscaling is constrained by a number of factors, including the attitudes of managers in business and industry and of government decision-makers, the suitability of buildings for solar panels, the hilly terrain making it difficult to switch to electric vehicles. While a greater shift to biofuels would support decarbonization, transport does not receive significant attention in Latin America.
Session 2 started with a presentation by Aleh Cherp on empirical studies of the feasibility of decarbonization pathways. These studies look at historical and other evidence to see whether transitions required to meet climate goals are feasible. The empirical evidence shows, for example, that the rate of decline of fossil fuel use required for the years between 2025 and 2035 in some decarbonization pathways is unprecedented. The empirical evidence not only provides indications of the potential feasibility of decarbonization pathways, it also provides insights into the mechanism of transitions. After the presentation, breakout groups reflected on what they heard and discussed the particular challenges that Latin American countries face in meeting climate goals. The participants noted the importance of feasibility assessments to support discussions between researchers, civil society and other stakeholders. Further key points were:
For Brazil, the presentation shows that feasibility of decarbonization has increased; parts of the needed transition are happening automatically, however awareness of the problem and challenges is still not enough and illegal deforestation continues on a large scale.
Mobilization of finance is needed to develop the biofuel/biomass/food industry in Latin America. Often incentives, external political pressure and knowledge exchange on sustainable practices are the key factors that foster sustainable development in small countries.
Trade could be used to increase the feasibility of sustainable land use, if there were mandatory certification schemes, for example, to ensure that products for export were produced without deforestation.
Engineered solutions require long-term strategies that oftentimes cannot be provided by autocratic regimes.
In Latin America, it is important to recognize the historical importance of social movements and social engagement in pushing for actual changes. The implementation of ambitious decarbonization pathways is less a technical issue and more a social and political issue. Public and political perspectives often differ.
The Russian-Ukrainian war may have an impact on feasibility due to the increase of the price of oil. If the prices remain high, there could be reluctance to move away from oil and gas.
Session 3 of the workshop focused on the multidimensional feasibility assessment of decarbonization pathways. Elina Brutschin presented the online tool developed in the ENGAGE project to make such assessments and to enable a more interactive engagement with scenarios. The tool is based on an operational framework that allows a systematic assessment and comparison of scenarios along key dimensions of feasibility identified in the 2018 IPCC Special Report. The dimensions of feasibility considered in this assessment tool comprise geophysical (e.g., the potential availability of solar or wind energy), technological (e.g., the availability of renewable energy technologies), economic (e.g., the carbon price or stranded assets), socio-cultural (e.g., dietary change) and institutional (e.g., institutional capacity to implement rapid decarbonization) concerns. Rather than making claims about which pathways are feasible or not feasible in the real world, the framework allows the identification of trade-offs over time and across dimensions. The tool allows systematic mapping out of areas of concern and highlights the enabling factors that can mitigate them. After the presentation, Elina Brutschin presented a survey in which participants were asked to give their opinion on the levels of transformation that could be achieved in Latin America by 2030 for 4 key indicators: the share ofnon-biomass renewables in electricity generation (%); the share of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies in total electricity generation (%), carbon price levels, and final energy demand levels.The results of the survey were used in the online multidimensional assessment tool to show participants how their assessment affects the feasibility evaluation of decarbonization pathways to achieve the Paris 1.5o C goal.
The final session of the workshop focused on how the challenges of rapid decarbonization can be shared in a fair way. Zoi Vrontisi presented the different principles (see Table 1) that can be used to share the challenges: grandfathering, per capita convergence, immediate per capita convergence, greenhouse development rights and the ability to pay. These principles can be implemented through policies on the domestic or international level or in a hybrid scheme combining action at both levels. The presentation showed examples of greenhouse gas emission pathways in different regions using the different principles. Depending on the equity principle chosen, the greenhouse gas reduction effort, economic implications and carbon price differ across regions. After the presentation, Silvia Pianta introduced a short survey, in which participants were asked to select their preferred equity principle. Since the survey also showed some of the modelled consequences of the selected principle, it was also possible to change the selection. The results showed a strong preference for Greenhouse Development Rights, which is based on the ethical principle of safeguarding people’s right to reach a dignified level of sustainable human development. The survey and presentation led to further discussion on important points of relevance for further research and for policies to share the challenges of transformation to a low-carbon economy:
The terminology must be clear and used carefully. “Burden-sharing” has a negative connotation. The principles are not necessarily about equity, so perhaps the term “ethical principles” might be better.
A rights-based approach anchored in law provides many opportunities. However, there is concern about the conditionalities applied to financing for developing countries.
When thinking about Greenhouse Development Rights, care must be taken not to assume that development should take place as it has in the past. The paradigm of “development” has to change, to align with the global climate and sustainable development goals.
Table 1. Description of climate mitigation effort sharing principles.
In an online meeting on January 27th, the ENGAGE project and a broad group of stakeholders from across the world explored what happened at the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow and what this means for research. Inspired by the opening comments made by a distinguished panel composed of representatives from the UNFCCC secretariat, the European Commission, Brazil, India and the USA, followed by two presentations from the ENGAGE project, the participants discussed the research needs and suggested the following priorities: Research is required to support increasing the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and in particular to support the urgently needed implementation of proposed emissions reductions. This includes providing transparent and regularly updated tracking of how pledges (at the national and subnational levels) evolve over time (e.g., countries implementing or giving up on pledges). More research is needed on which countries and sectors are setting goals but not implementing them, and on other countries that may not have pledges yet but have been quite effective in reducing emissions in the short term.
Regarding the global reporting and stock take, research can make an invaluable contribution in demonstrating how to make them forward-thinking and transformative.
Considerable research is still needed in the area of finance, including collaborative financing mechanisms and determining the finance needs for developing countries.
Research on climate change solutions should pay much more attention to social change and alternative forms of economy (e.g., sharing, degrowth, solidarity, Beyond GDP, green economy).
Research must continue on the topics of equity, effort-sharing and environmental justice. What are the implications of these considerations for 2030? How can country pledges be reconciled with equity considerations and effort-sharing?
There is an important need for better coverage of non-CO2 greenhouse gases in research.
More research is needed to help some developing countries that hesitate to adopt low-carbon technologies, because they fear that these technologies may not perform, or because they do not have the required technical skills or the resources required. There is also the issue of employment, especially in developing countries, due to decarbonization of the power sector.
From a modelling perspective: the NDCs needs to be consistent with long-term strategies. Models could be used to see whether there are policies that are less stringent until 2030 and then lead to faster emissions reductions. Is this feasible at the country level? A range of questions related to modelling require answers, e.g., How to capture technology-based mitigation solutions, for example, more biomass carbon capture and storage (CCS) and gas CCS and how models depict gas storage capability levels. How can models be used to carry out a reality check on what is represented in terms of updated costs and stability requirements? How can the demand system be changed and what is a feasible pace for energy demand reductions on a country level? How can differentiated governance levels be included in models?
The online meeting showed that research can play a very significant role over the next few years in shaping responses to climate change. Clear and transparent reporting of the results of scientific research will be needed and policy making must be informed in a holistic manner. This includes communication about the costs of inaction and clearly showing the repercussions of not sticking to the agreed goals. It will also be important to translate model results into more tangible near-term strategies that can better inform policy makers. The discussions also highlighted the continuing need for capacity building so that policy makers understand the research results, and so that scientists can respond more effectively to decision-makers’ and societal needs. Finally, it is essential to support developing countries through knowledge transfer, capacity building, research and development and building infrastructure.