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Deep decarbonisation – who and how much: industry pathways to achieving the 2°C goal

By Jim Ormond and Jane Fiona Cumming

There is a need for radical decarbonisation... However this challenge is compounded not only with the reality that over the next two decades there will be 2 billion more people living ever-more carbon-intensive lifestyles, but also by the challenge of reconciling poverty reduction (and economic growth) with deep decarbonisation.

At the very heart of the decarbonisation challenge is the simple question - who is responsible for what level of carbon reduction?

For example, should developing countries be able to increase their carbon emissions as part of their economic development? At a national level, much has been said about this notion of common-but-differentiated responsibilities (i.e., that everyone needs to take common responsibility for this global challenge, but with different levels of response). Less, however, has been discussed about allocating the remaining global budget amongst industrial sectors. This is a key issue, as businesses are both key contributors to climate change (releasing 49 Gt of GHG emissions each year) and also critical drivers for poverty reduction.

One tool to map out the pathway to a low-carbon future is the Sectoral Decarbonization Approach (SDA), which allocates the 2°C carbon budget to different sectors. This method takes into account inherent differences among sectors, such as mitigation potential and, critically, how fast each sector can grow relative to economic and population growth.

*Carbon reduction pathways as described within the SDA –

We have summarised below the reduction targets calculated for each of the 13 sectors, but there are three key take away messages:

  • There is a need to recognize the differentiated responsibilities of different industries and nations, when mapping how we are to marry decarbonisation with poverty reduction.
  • For those sectors not able to reduce their absolute emissions (e.g. the rail-passenger sector due to increases in use), there is a critical need to significantly reduce carbon intensity (e.g. carbon per passenger km).
  • The most important sector to urgently reduce carbon is electricity generation by encouraging renewable energy.

 For more information, please contact Jim Ormond or Jane Fiona Cumming at Article 13.


  • Activity: Between 2010 and 2050 the amount of electricity generated is expected to almost double (from 21,500 TWh to 40,000 TWh).
  • In 2010: Electricity generation was responsible for emitting 13 Gt of CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 1 Gt of CO (a required decrease of almost 91%)


  • Activity: In 2010, the cement industry produced 3,551 Mt of cement. In 2050, this is expected to increase to 4,475 Mt.
  • In 2010: The cement industry emitted 2.1 Gt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 7 Gt CO (a decrease of 20%)


  • Activity: In 2010, the sector produced 1,482 Mt of crude steel. In 2050, global steel production is expected to increase to 2,295 Mt.
  • In 2010: The sector emitted 2.96 Gt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 04 Gt CO(31% decrease)


  • Activity: In 2010, aluminium production amounted to 87 Mt, this is expected to increase to 234 Mt by 2050.
  • In 2010: Sector emitted 141 Mt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 333 Mt CO (136% increase due to increased production)


  • Activity: Not available
  • In 2010: Sector emitted 1.2 Gt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 2 Gt CO (almost 68% increase - China, Africa, and the Middle East account for more than half the emission reduction potential)


  • Activity: Total production is expected to increase from 392 Mt in 2010 to 755 Mt in 2050.
  • In 2010: Sector emitted 238 Mt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 164 Mt CO (decrease of 31%)


  • Activity: No data available
  • In 2010: 2,140 Mt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 903 Mt CO(a decrease of 58%)


  • Activity: 2010, 28 trillion passenger km expected to increase to 50 trillion passenger km by 2050.
  • In 2010: Emitted 9 Gt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 2 Gt CO (a decrease of 58%)


  • Activity: Heavy road passenger kilometres were 7.2 trillion in 2010, expected to rise to 18 trillion by 2050.
  • In 2010: Emitted 356 Mt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 315 Mt (a decrease of 12%)


  • Activity: In 2010, 2.6 trillion passenger km expected to increase to 9.2 trillion passenger km in 2050.
  • In 2010: Sector emitted 19 Mt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 23 Mt CO (an increase of about 21%)


  • Activity: 3 trillion passenger km in 2010, expected to reach 7.8 trillion passenger km by 2050.
  • In 2010: In 2010, aviation sector emitted 755 Mt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: Expected to increase to 1,020 Mt CO (35% increase)


  • Activity: No data available
  • In 2010: Emitted 2,788 Mt CO
  • Science-based target for 2050: 1,445 Mt CO (a decrease of 48%).


  • Activity: In 2010, sector entailed about 38 billion m2, is expected to reach 63 billion m2 by 2050.
  • In 2010: Emitted 870 Mt CO
  • Target for 2050: 645 Mt CO (reduction of 26%)
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