Insights

A Better Life with a Healthy Planet: Pathways to Net Zero Emissions

Organisation: Shell

In July, the Shell Scenarios team released “A Better Life with a Healthy Planet: Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions”, a supplement that builds on Shell's New Lens Scenarios published in 2013, which showed that economic growth coupled with near net-zero emissions is a challenging but achievable vision. 
 
The energy system responds to the demands of a growing number of people in the world with aspirations to make life materially better for themselves and their children. Meeting this demand will probably require approximately doubling the size of the global energy system over the course of this century. And that means the potential growth of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases – unless something is done at the same time to reduce these emissions, so that there are no net additions. It is valuable to recognise, however, that a net-zero emissions world is not necessarily a world without any emissions anywhere. It is a world where remaining emissions are offset elsewhere in the system, an outcome that is more rapidly achievable and hence more consistent with limiting the accumulation of greenhouse gases. This means that the world will need “negative” emissions in some sectors to offset remaining emissions in others such that zero additional emissions enter the atmosphere – the so-called “net-zero.”
 
Shell’s work led to a conclusion that that providing the necessary energy in the context of net-zero CO2 emissions is technically feasible but it will be very challenging. We know that such a future will be built on a patchwork of solutions, not a single pathway. Solutions may work in one place even if they aren’t necessarily suitable for every situation. And it may be difficult to predict whether a solution that works well in the lab or on a small scale can succeed in global deployment. In this booklet, we distil what we have learned so far in an attempt to answer a fundamental question: How could the energy system evolve to provide “a better life for all with a healthy planet?”
 
The webinar was presented by David Hone. David is Chief Climate Change Adviser for Shell, a board member and former Chair of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) and a board member of C2ES in Washington. He is a regular climate blogger and is the author of a series of books on the climate issue under the title “Putting the Genie Back”.  David provided a summary of the scenario and was followed with a live Q&A session with the webinar audience.

Here is a recording of the webinar and a browsable version of the slides used in the presentation: