In this episode of the International Resource Panel (IRP) Webcast Series: What does the Global Future hold, the IRP invited Ritu Mathur, Director of the Integrated Assessment & Modelling work at The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) and Adjunct Faculty at the TERI School of Advanced Studies, to discuss what she sees on the horizon in terms of the future of "Energy and Climate Change". She spoke about the key risks and opportunities and how the risks can be managed and opportunities achieved. The webcast included a talk and a Q&A session.

Recording of the webcast
Quotes from the webcast 

"Recent studies and scenarios are indicating that in the absence of new climate policies or even the NDCs that most countries now have in place, the greenhouse gas emissions may still turn out to be somewhere in the range of about 63 to 110 gigatons CO2 equivalent per year by 2050. This would mean a global average temperature change of somewhere between 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by 2100."

"So NDCs or the current policies in reality is definitely not going to get us near the 1.5 degree scenario which is necessary from the climate science perspective, something we should try and move towards very quickly."

"Despite the range of various scenarios, it is only the deep decarbonization scenarios which are done with the purpose to look at the choices of what can you do, how can you do, and how much can you do. They tell us the kind of options that the energy system or the land system have or the changes they must make in trying to move towards a 2 degree or 1.5 degree world. These scenarios tend to say something similar in terms of peaking. As soon as we start looking at 1.5 degrees Celsius, the peaking needs to start somewhere now."

"Some scenarios are consistent with the Paris Agreement in terms of reaching Net Zero CO2 emissions around 2050. However, these scenario also tell us that if you tend to have weaker near-term actions before 2030, then it seems to exacerbate the mitigation challenges in the post-2030 period."

"Rapid near-term transformations towards net zero CO2 emissions decrease the reliance on net negative emissions and temperature overshoot in many scenarios. Accelerated action pathways can also prevent lock-ins into carbon intensive optins and reduce disruptive transitions in the long run."

"While every country or even at a global level we need to worry about both the adaptation and the mitigation sides of the story, when it comes to managing the transition towards a 1.5 degree world, we definitely need to focus on the mitigation side and this is where the energy sector becomes the most prominent and the most important."

"Some elements in the energy sector tend to stand out as common elements which are irrespective of differences in the storylines."

"There are three main pillars:

  • First, energy efficiency. Almost all scenarios tend to push energy efficiency to the maximum and see this as a beneficial element on both the demand and supply sides. 

  • The second is a push towards electrification of end-use sectors. Almost all end-use sectors, whether it is the transport sector, in the industry or the construction sector, need higher electrification. 

  • The third important element is the decarbonization of electricity. Therefore, there is a need for the big push towards the need for renewables, solar, wind or other forms such as nuclear and hydro."

"Decarbonization of the power sector is seeing the greatest momentum at the moment, and it also has the greatest potential in the next decade. The stumbling blocks tend to be the battery and storage technologies which are progressing rapidly but need to be further scaled up. In a slightly longer-term horizon, beyond the next 10 years, we again see some common elements across scenarios, including hydrogen, ammonia, biofuels, synthetic fuels, and biomethane."

"In addition, some of the elements which are softer versions of challenges, are appearing in many of these scenarios, which include behavioral changes and material efficiency changes. Some of the questions include what do we use across end-users and whether different materials could be used? For example, in construction and buildings, move to use wood instead of cement; when it comes to cooking, shift away from gas-based stoves to electric cooking stoves."

"There is a need for technologies to evolve, there is a need for options to become available at scale in order to move at a full decarbonization of the industry sector."

"International cooperation Is extremely important to push the limits and bring the technologies to commercial viability."

"Many of these scenarios can happen at fairly low-levels of increase in economic costs vis-à-vis the current trajectories now."

Speaker - Ritu Mathur

Dr Ritu Mathur leads the Integrated Assessment & Modelling work at The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) and is also associated with TERI School of Advanced Studies as Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Energy and Environment. She is an economist by training and holds a PhD in Energy Science from Kyoto University, Japan.

Dr Ritu Mathur has been working in the fields of sustainable development, energy transitions, climate change and mitigation for around 3 decades. At the country level, her work has focused on providing insights to policy makers and planners by analysing the socio-economic and environmental implications of alternative development and mitigation pathways for the country.  Some of the main inputs of her work have been towards providing inputs to the National Action Plan on Climate Change, inputs for the formulation of India’s NDCs, and examining the options and choices for India towards Net Zero Emissions.  

Being closely associated with the global network of Integrated Assessment Modellers, she has along with her team contributed to scenario building and mitigation related modelling across several large projects using rigorous and robust global and national models to deliver outputs that contribute to scientific literature. She has published several papers in journals/ contributed to chapters in books around subjects related to sustainable development and mitigation.

Dr Mathur is also a Lead Author in Working Group III of the IPCC AR6 report, apart from being associated as a member of various Committees including the India Energy Modeling Forum (NITI Aayog), the Scientific Advisory Group of the Science Based Targets Initiative; Member of the Board of Climate Strategies (CS), etc.  

Learn more about the IRP Webcast Series: What does the Global Future hold?