The objectives of the Paris Climate Change Agreement can be attained with less negative emissions than shown in the majority of analyses. A greater focus on lifestyle change, increased use of renewable energy and a substantial reduction of methane emissions are alternatives to negative emission efforts such as bioenergy in combination with CO2 capture and storage (BECCS). While it is not possible to reduce negative emissions to zero, the use of BECCS can be scaled down significantly.
Researchers from Utrecht University and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency draw these conclusions in an article in Nature Climate Change. Studies into the objectives of the Paris Agreement usually indicate that, in addition to rapid emission reductions, there is also a need for large-scale negative emission efforts, such as reforestation and bioenergy with CO2 capture and storage. Many negative emission efforts require substantial areas of land, which may have consequences for the global food supply and for nature. Using the IMAGE model, PBL and Utrecht University have now elaborated alternative paths to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
Negative emissions lead to extensive land us
The Paris Agreement aims to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and preferably to 1.5°C. This objective requires a considerable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, scenarios focussing on the Paris target almost always involve methods to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, the so-called negative emissions. When considering negative emissions needed at the end of the century, calculations quite often result in amounts that are so large that they can have negative consequences for food supply or nature. The question is whether these can be limited.
Exploring alternative scenarios with computer models
It is possible to explore alternative scenarios by using computer models. Normally, the models are mainly used to find the best possible combination of measures to meet the climate target. In this study however, researchers from PBL and Utrecht University explore all sorts of alternative scenarios that could lead to less negative emissions. This involves, for example, lifestyle change, additional reduction of non-CO2 greenhouse gases such as methane, and increased use of renewable energy.