The great energy transition of the 21st century: The 2050 Zero-Carbon World Oration

Elsevier, Energy Research and Social Science, Volume 35, January 2018
Wiseman J.
Looking back from 2050, this article is written in the form of a fictional speech reflecting on the impressive progress made by 2050 towards achieving the global goal of zero net emissions. The speaker also highlights the severe and ongoing ecological damage and human suffering caused by the failure to reduce emissions with sufficient urgency in the first quarter of the 21st Century – and the ongoing challenge of implementing the actions required to bring global temperatures back below 1.5 degrees. The speech identifies the following key drivers of the ‘great 21st century energy transition’. i) Sustained leadership from national and sub-national governments, business, civil society and the military in ratcheting up and accelerating implementation of the Paris Agreement. ii) The escalating frequency and severity of catastrophic climatic events. iii) Disruptive, game changing technological innovation including in energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage and distribution, transport, construction and agriculture. iv) Disruptive, game changing innovation in social, economic and political institutions and relationships including: • increasing recognition of the importance of reducing the global consumption of goods and services; • an ongoing shift towards more distributed and collaborative economic paradigms and systems; • growing popular and political support for the global climate justice movement; • radical improvements in the transparency and accountability of democratic and governance processes; and • the mobilization of millions of citizens driving transformational change in investment flows, electoral outcomes and political choices.