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Research and innovation

Climate mitigation pathways

Page about how research and innovation plays a key role in providing the knowledge needed to reach climate neutrality

Why knowledge about climate mitigation pathways matters

With the European Green Deal and the Climate Law, the EU is firmly committed to becoming climate neutral by 2050. This is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C, ideally to 1.5°C, as agreed in the Paris Agreement and to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Scientific evidence is clear: immediate and drastic emissions reductions across all sectors are needed to keep the Paris temperature goals within reach and this decade will be decisive.

What role does EU research and innovation play?

Science, which first brought global warming to worldwide attention, will continue to play a central role in dealing with this existential threat. Crucially, evidence from the research community is needed to drive ambition, mobilise action, guide policy responses, and clarify the roles of different actors: from governments, through businesses, to local communities.

EU-funded projects are developing important knowledge, models and tools to support the design of policies that will transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy as envisioned in the European Green Deal.

The results of this research provide valuable insights on how to steer the EU towards climate neutrality by studying the complex interplay between human development, societal choices, and the natural world. They help policymakers, administrations, businesses and other actors to assess feasibility, costs, risks, trade-offs and co-benefits of their strategies, investments and other important decisions.

The projects in this area address many critical components of the socio-ecological transition, such as

  • methods for reducing emissions, enhancing their sinks, and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere
  • technical, economic, and social feasibility of mitigation options
  • mitigation options in specific sectors such as energy, industry, agriculture, or transport
  • the role of consumption and behavioural change, innovation, technology, and finance
  • synergies and trade-offs with climate adaptation measures, biodiversity and sustainable development
  • climate justice, equity (within and between countries) and distributional consequences of climate policies

The EU is among the top funders of the evidence base underpinning the milestone reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) where EU-funded research plays an important role by filling critical knowledge gaps, increasing the robustness of research findings, and building consensus among the international scientific community. This way, EU-funded projects contribute to improving the effectiveness of both national and international climate policies and processes.

See examples of projects funded under this part of the work programme:

Background

The transition to climate neutrality is an immense challenge and calls for a deep transformation across all key sectors of the economy. This means fundamentally restructuring the way energy, land and water resources are used

Limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen).

Reducing emissions in industry will involve using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products and minimising waste. For basic materials, including steel, cement and chemicals, new production processes, and, where necessary, carbon capture and storage, are needed.

Agriculture and the land-use sector will also need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and expand carbon sinks, while delivering benefits for biodiversity and increased climate resilience.

Changing people's behaviour towards more sustainable habits will be critical and needs to be accelerated. The IPCC estimates that demand side changes can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The transition will be costly and must be financed up-front, but in the long run maintaining the business as usual is not an option. The benefits from lower temperatures, avoided extreme events, better air-quality and thriving biodiversity will by far outweigh the costs.

The recent developments bring important lessons - the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that rapid emissions reductions and deep lifestyle changes are feasible, while the war in Ukraine is a case in point why we must break our dependence on fossil fuels.

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