How could the world's energy system evolve to meet future demand, while enabling a better quality of life and healthy planet? This is the major question raised in a new report by the Shell Scenarios team.

A Better Life with a Healthy Planet: Pathways to Net-Zero Emissions takes the most optimistic features of our 2013 New Lens Scenarios and combined them with individually plausible further shifts in policy, technology deployment, circumstances, and events that might move the world onto a new, even lower-emission trajectory, resulting in net-zero emissions on a timescale consistent with global aspirations. This work showed that economic growth coupled with near net-zero emissions is a challenging but achievable vision.

Towards a world of net-zero emissions

What might optimistic pathways to a net-zero emissions world look like in practice? Achieving net-zero emissions will require a transformation of the global economy, especially in four main sectors currently generating a large proportion of energy-related CO2 emissions: power, buildings, transport, and industry.

Power

Hand turning switch

Zero-emission technologies, including current and future renewable technologies as well as nuclear, will need to displace coal to dominate the power sector.

The relative share for hydrocarbons will fall, including gas and biomass combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Buildings

Skyling buildings in city centre night

High energy-efficiency standards in building design and operation must be implemented and enforced.

Greater efficiency will allow fully-electrified buildings to become much more widespread.

Most new construction in developed and emerging economies is already all-electric.

Transport

Airport worker standing by aeroplane

Passenger road travel will increasingly need to be electrified or rely on hydrogen, while longer-distance freight, shipping, and aviation will continue to rely on energy-dense liquid fuels including oil, biofuels, liquefied natural gas, and hydrogen, in years to come.

Industry

lady with gloves on checking equipment

Activities such as light manufacturing will be able to electrify and decarbonise relatively quickly, but heavy industry could find the transition from hydrocarbon fuels more expensive, longer to achieve, or just not viable.

Eliminating most emissions from industries like steel and cement-making in a reasonable timescale will likely require CCS.

What else must change?

Two Combine Harvesters in Barley Field during Harvest

Apart from the four pillars, steps designed to limit emissions from agricultural practices and land-use will also be essential. These account for nearly a quarter of all global emissions today.

More in Shell Scenarios

New Lens on the Future

Our New Lens Scenarios explore two possible ways the 21st century could unfold, with dramatically different implications for society and energy. 

New Lenses on Future Cities

We analysed six city archetypes to better understand the changing world and created scenarios for how individual cities might evolve and become more efficient.

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