The role of technology for achieving climate policy objectives: overview of the EMF 27 study on global technology and climate policy strategies


This article presents the synthesis of results from the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum Study 27, an inter-comparison of 18 energy-economy and integrated assessment models. The study investigated the importance of individual mitigation options such as energy intensity improvements, carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear power, solar and wind power and bioenergy for climate mitigation. Limiting the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration to 450 or 550 ppm CO2 equivalent by 2100 would require a decarbonization of the global energy system in the 21st century. Robust characteristics of the energy transformation are increased energy intensity improvements and the electrification of energy end use coupled with a fast decarbonization of the electricity sector. Non-electric energy end use is hardest to decarbonize, particularly in the transport sector. Technology is a key element of climate mitigation. Versatile technologies such as CCS and bioenergy are found to be most important, due in part to their combined ability to produce negative emissions. The importance of individual low-carbon electricity technologies is more limited due to the many alternatives in the sector. The scale of the energy transformation is larger for the 450 ppm than for the 550 ppm CO2e target. As a result, the achievability and the costs of the 450 ppm target are more sensitive to variations in technology availability.

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  1. 1.

    Those models used endogenous climate modules that can differ significantly in their response to emissions trajectories, particularly for the climate policy cases. This adds an additional layer of uncertainty to climate outcomes and also affects the amount of residual emissions that models estimate to be consistent with the climate targets.

  2. 2.

    This is true in the context of this study, since no additional climate policy measures such as technology performance standards or subsidies are assumed.

  3. 3.

    Most of the EMF27 models assume an interest rate of around 5 % per year. The choice of discount rate affects the average price/net present value cost estimates. Lower discount rates lead to higher average prices/net present value costs, if prices/costs increase over time.


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Jae Edmonds and Leon Clarke are grateful for research support provided by the Integrated Assessment Research Program in the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC05-76RL01830. Results reported for the GCAM model used Evergreen computing resources at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park, which is supported by the Integrated Assessment Research Program in the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone.

The contribution of Elmar Kriegler, Volker Krey, Gunnar Luderer, Keywan Riahi, Massimo Tavoni and Detlev van Vuuren to this research was supported by funding from the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme under the LIMITS project (grant agreement no. 282846).

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Correspondence to Elmar Kriegler.

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This article is part of the Special Issue on “The EMF27 Study on Global Technology and Climate Policy Strategies” edited by John Weyant, Elmar Kriegler, Geoffrey Blanford, Volker Krey, Jae Edmonds, Keywan Riahi, Richard Richels, and Massimo Tavoni.

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Kriegler, E., Weyant, J.P., Blanford, G.J. et al. The role of technology for achieving climate policy objectives: overview of the EMF 27 study on global technology and climate policy strategies. Climatic Change 123, 353–367 (2014).

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  • Emission Reduction
  • Climate Policy
  • Integrate Assessment Model
  • Mitigation Cost
  • Mitigation Scenario