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Title: Carbon Lock-in Through Capital Stock Inertia Associated with Weak Near-term Climate Policies

Stringent long-term climate targets necessitate a strict limit on cumulative emissions in this century for which sufficient policy signals are so far lacking. Based on an ensemble of ten energy-economy models, we explore how long-term transformation pathways depend on policies pursued during the next two decades. We find that weak GHG emission targets for 2030 lead, in that year alone, to excess carbon dioxide emissions of nearly half of the annual emissions in 2010, mainly through coal electricity generation. Furthermore, by consuming more of the long-term cumulative emissions budget in the first two decades, weak policy increases the likelihood of overshooting the budget and the urgency of reducing GHG emissions. Therefore, to be successful under weak policies, models must prematurely retire much of the additional coal capacity post-2030 and remove large quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the latter half of the century. While increased energy efficiency lowers mitigation costs considerably, even with weak near-term policies, it does not substantially reduce the short term reliance on coal electricity. However, increased energy efficiency does allow the energy system more flexibility in mitigating emissions and, thus, makes the post-2030 transition easier.
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Resource Type:
Journal Article
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Journal Name: Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 90(A):62-72
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
Climate change mitigation; Energy systems modeling; Energy efficiency; Carbon dioxide emissions; AMPERE; Integrated assessment