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 builds on Shell's New Lens Scenarios published in 2013, which showed that economic growth coupled with near net-zero emissions is a challenging but achievable vision. 

"We've taken the most optimistic features of our 2013 scenarios. We've then 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."

Jeremy Bentham, Head of Shell Scenarios

A patchwork of solutions

Shell continues to develop its scenarios work to better understand the practical challenges ahead.

"We find the goal of a better life with a healthy planet to be an inspiring ambition," Ben van Beurden, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, says in the report's preface. "Navigating the necessary transitions will require extraordinary and unprecedented co-ordination, collaboration and leadership across all sectors of society."

As the world's energy system responds to a growing population expecting better living standards, it is likely to double its size this century. Such enlargement brings with it the potential growth of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases, unless a collective effort is made to reduce global emissions so that there are no net additions.

The supplement presents a range of approaches to decarbonise the global economy in a way that might address both the challenge of climate change and the need for broader economic growth. It finds that no single solution will catapult the world into a net-zero economy.

Instead it is likely to come from a patchwork of approaches. Different degrees of decarbonisation and energy efficiency will be achieved at different paces, in different regions, and in different sectors of the economy.

A better life with a healthy planet

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.

More in Shell Scenarios

New lenses 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.

You may also be interested in

More and cleaner energy

We are using our know-how, technology and innovation to help deliver more and cleaner energy for the world's growing population.

The colours of energy

The 21st century will be decisive in the various transitions to a future with cleaner energy. Written by leading experts, The colours of energy contains 36 thought-provoking essays about the many energy challenges society faces in the coming decades.