It is just a few short months since the conclusion of COP26, held in Glasgow, UK. There, citizens from all over the world took to the streets in their tens of thousands demanding action on climate change, calling for climate justice. Governments seem to be listening to citizen concerns and to the science; many countries have targets to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner. Internationally, COP26 is judged to have made enough progress that the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2°C, and perhaps even 1.5°C, remains within reach. However, these targets can only be achieved with massive and rapid change to global energy systems, whose use of fossil fuel is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The question is whether governments are looking in the right places for the levers for change.
This article argues that they are not – there is too little focus on the role of energy demand reduction in delivering net zero emissions. The transition to net zero will not be solely, or even primarily, about changes to the energy supply side (Eyre and Killip, 2019). Energy experts agree that a transition to net zero, particularly a just transition, must go beyond electricity grid decarbonization, through replacement of fossil fuels by renewables, towards a greater focus on energy demand reduction and on engagement of users in the transition (Nolden et al, 2021).
Fawcett, T. 2022. Energy demand reduction: its importance in meeting climate change targets, pdfOpens in a new tab (79 pages, 1.2 MB). In: Climate change and energy, International Affairs Forum (Eds. Mineshima-Lowe, D., Brace, S., Gilliard, A., Seltzer, T. and Sutherland, R. Washington D.C.: Center for International Relations.
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