Exploring national decarbonization pathways and global energy trade flows: a multi-scale analysis

<p>The role of fossils fuels in national economies will change radically over the next 40 years under a strong climate regime. However, capturing this changing role through national-based analyses is challenging due to the global nature of fossil fuel demand and resulting trade patterns. This article sets out the limitations of existing national-scale decarbonization analyses in adequately capturing global conditions and explores how the introduction of a global modelling framework could provide vital insights, particularly for those countries that are dependent on fossil fuel exports or imports.</p> <p>The article shows that fossil fuel use will significantly decline by 2050, although gas will have an important transition role. This leaves large fossil fuel exporters exposed, the extent of which is determined by mitigation action in different regions and especially by the pathways adopted by the larger Asian economies. We find that global-scale models provide critical insights that complement the more detailed national analyses and should play a stronger role in informing deep decarbonization pathways (DDPs). They also provide an important basis for exploring key uncertainties around technology uptake, mitigation rates and how this plays out in the demand for fossil fuels. However, use of global models also calls for improved representation of country specifics in global models, which can oversimplify national economic and political realities. Using both model scales provides important insights that are complementary but that can challenge the other’s orthodoxy. However, neither can replace the other’s strengths.</p> <p><b>Policy relevance</b>:</p> <p>In recent years, how global fossil fuel markets will evolve under different climate regimes has been subject to much debate and analysis. This debate includes whether investments in fossil fuel production still make sense or will be exposed in the future to liabilities associated with high carbon prices. This is important for governments who need to develop coherent policy in relation to fossil fuel sectors and their role as drivers of economic growth and in providing for domestic energy needs. This article argues that national analyses need to be fully cognizant of the global-scale transition, which can be informed by using a multi-scale modelling approach.</p>