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How much energy do we need to achieve a decent life for all?

September 21, 2021
Energy world population Photo: Unsplash / NASA

This article was first published by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. It is a summary of an Environmental Research letter.

“For many, an increase in living standards would require an increase in energy provision. At the same time, meeting current climate goals under the Paris Agreement would benefit from lower energy use. IIASA researchers 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 the journal Environmental Research Letters, IIASA researchers used a multidimensional approach to poverty 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.”

“”For most countries, especially many poor countries in Africa, unprecedented growth in energy use as well as more equitably distributed growth are essential to achieving DLS before mid-century,” Kikstra adds. “Therefore, the biggest challenge for policymakers will be to achieve an equitable distribution of energy access worldwide, which is currently still out of reach.”

“Our results support the view that on a global scale, energy for eradicating poverty does not pose a threat for mitigating climate change. However, to provide everyone with a decent life, energy redistribution across the world and unprecedented final energy growth in many poor countries is required,” concludes study author, Jihoon Min.

“”To achieve decent living conditions worldwide, it seems that we do not have to limit energy access to basic services as there is a surplus of total energy. What is perhaps unexpected is that even under very ambitious poverty eradication and climate mitigation scenarios, there is quite a lot of energy still available for affluence,” says study author Alessio Mastrucci.” 

This article was written by Jarmo Kikstra and Ansa Heyl.