Beyond shared socioeconomic pathways (SSPs) and representative concentration pathways (RCPs): climate policy implementation scenarios for Europe, the US and China

Richard J. Hewitt*, Roger Cremades, Dmitry V. Kovalevsky, Klaus Hasselmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The 2015 Paris Agreement is falling short of its aspirations, as signatory countries are struggling to implement the policies required to meet the targets. The global scenario framework formed by the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) and the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) places little emphasis on the dynamics of climate policy implementation. Social science approaches to understanding these dynamics are not well-integrated into climate scenario research. We apply an implementation research approach to analyse the transition to clean energy in the US and China, as well as two examples from Europe–Germany and Spain–which have shown markedly diverging implementation trajectories. We propose four implementation scenarios (ISs) for clean energy worldwide which relate to different configurations of actors in the policy system. These are: (1) Civil Society Takes Control (IS1)–where ideologically opposed governments are marginalised by citizens and forward-thinking investors; (2) Strong-arm Transition (IS2)–where a single party state drives the transition without the involvement of civil society; (3) Systemic Limits (IS3)–which highlights the need to focus on the whole energy system, not just renewables; and (4) Renewable Austerity (IS4)–where an economic downturn offers powerful anti-transition actors the opportunity to advocate removal of support for climate mitigation, as they did after the 2007–2008 financial crisis. This scenario could be repeated as countries seek to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Our study offers a framework for structured analysis of real-world constraints faced by implementing actors, which we argue is urgently needed to help national and international policy makers achieve climate goals. Key policy insights The world is struggling to implement the Paris Agreement, partly because the complex dynamics of climate policy implementation are poorly understood. Social science approaches to understanding these dynamics are not well-integrated into climate scenario research. Implementation research focussing on the actors and context provides a useful framework for analysis of implementation efforts from major global carbon emitters. The approach offers new and distinctive scenario narratives that go beyond Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) and Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). These new scenarios can help policy makers evaluate likely outcomes of climate policy implementation based on information about actors and context.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClimate Policy
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • climate policy implementation
  • climate scenarios
  • climate targets
  • international comparison
  • policy evaluation/feedback
  • renewable energy

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