Mission possible: Reconcile energy demand for a decent life for all and climate mitigation goals

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IIASA researchers being part of the SHAPE project have assessed how much energy is needed to provide the global poor with a decent life and have found that this can be reconciled with efforts to meet climate targets.

In a new study published in Environmental Research Letters a multidimensional approach to poverty was applied to conduct a comprehensive global study on decent living standards (DLS). The researchers identified gaps in DLS by region and estimated how much energy is needed to fill them. They also assessed whether providing everyone with a decent life is compatible with climate goals.

Studies on poverty often use an income-based definition for defining poverty thresholds. In contrast, DLS represent a set of material prerequisites to provide the services needed for wellbeing, such as having adequate shelter, nutrition, clean water, sanitation, cooking stoves and refrigeration, and being able to connect physically and socially via transportation and communication technologies. Crucially, this allows for calculation of the resources needed to provide these basic services.

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One of the most striking findings of the study was that the number of people deprived of basic needs according to DLS generally far exceeds the number of people in extreme poverty, meaning that current poverty thresholds are often inconsistent with a decent life.

According to the study, the amount of energy needed for decent living worldwide is less than half of the total final energy demand projected under most future pathways that keep temperature rise below 1.5 C. This indicates that achieving DLS for all does not have to interfere with climate goals. However, to provide everyone with a decent life, energy redistribution across the world and unprecedented final energy growth in many poor countries is required.

Reference
Kikstra, J.S., Mastrucci, A., Min J., Riahi, K., Rao, N.D. (2021). Decent living gaps and energy needs around the world. Environmental Research Letters DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac1c2

SHAPE project, Friday 1 October 2021