The extent of change required to limit global warming well below 2 °C could easily make anyone’s head spin. The number of pathways, technological options, behavioural changes and political reforms on the table certainly doesn’t help. But what if we could simply go to a website, define a warming target, set what we consider as Europe’s fair share of the global effort, and see exactly what it would take to get there? Such a tool exists, and it has been developed under the EU-funded EUCalc (EU Calculator: trade-offs and pathways towards sustainable and low-carbon European societies) project.
Introducing the EUCalc(ulator)
The project’s ‘Transition Pathways Explorer’ starts off with two simple yet crucial questions. Do you want to limit temperature rise to 1.5 or 2 °C by 2050, and should Europe’s share of the burden be calculated on a per capita or capability basis? Whilst the former calculates Europe’s effort based on its population, the latter takes into account its above-average GDP to establish its fair share of efforts. From there on, users access a number of interactive charts showcasing efforts to be displayed in 60 sectors of action. They can find out about the global benefit of actions taken in Europe and check scenarios where the rest of the world does or does not follow suit. Moreover – and this is a first for such calculators – the results use state-of-the-art global warming potential (GWP) calculations to consider emissions of different gases and convert them into CO2 equivalents in terms of impact on climate.
Information for everyone
“The advantage of the calculator is that it does not only take into account technological changes,” says Juergen Kropp from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and EUCalc coordinator. “We know that technological progress alone is not sufficient to reach net zero in 2050, so EUCalc systematically considers the role of lifestyle changes in supporting the decarbonisation of Europe.” The tool is of great value to all stakeholders looking for suitable measures and their impact on global warming. It generates results in real time, responding to the users’ ambition levels. Suppose, for instance, that your objective is to decarbonise the agri-food sector. Thanks to EUCalc, you can look into different dietary patterns and land-use scenarios, consider intensification and extensification options, clearly identify the pros and cons of every option, and even estimate trade-offs and co-benefits with other decisions in, say, the energy sector. As Kropp puts it: “This approach helps actors go beyond one-eyed (or sectoral) views on the problem of global warming.” To ensure that everyone can use its model and tools, the EUCalc team designed them to be of intermediate complexity, with a specific version designed to reach younger people. This allows for providing very tangible drivers that citizens can relate to – such as distance travelled each year, number of passengers in a car, hours spent in front of a screen or amount of food wasted – while at the same time providing a working base for decision-makers. For the first group, EUCalc is a bit of an eye-opener. For people tempted to marginalise the importance of individual actions, project results show that ambitious changes in lifestyles could actually result in greenhouse gas (GHG) savings of 40 % and 60 % by 2030 and 2050 respectively. For decision-makers within economic sectors responsible for climate change, the project also provides important food for thought. For instance, it tells us that if the industrial sector was to introduce the full range of GHG reduction technologies, for example hydrogen-based chemical production, low-carbon cement production and a renewable energy mix, it could lead to a 90 % reduction in GHG emissions against a business-as-usual trend. All in all, Kropp insists on the role of citizens’ behaviour and hopes that the project will allow for the exploration of a wider set of decarbonisation options. “In an overarching sense, I would say that real carbon neutrality can be achieved only by concerted action across the economy, because obvious solutions in one sector can create negative side effects in other sectors. This is one of the major challenges in future sustainability planning,” he concludes.
EUCalc, global warming, online calculator, pathways explorer, citizens, lifestyle changes, climate change, decarbonisation