The 2°C target is within reach but more ambitious commitments are needed for 1.5°C

New medium-term goals and long-term net-zero commitments, ambitious policy initiatives and technological development are helping to limit future global warming to around 1.8°C.

This is a considerable improvement on the previous projection of around 2.7°C made by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC).

However, achieving the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target will require substantial and timely additional efforts by the entire international community, and in particular major emitters.

This is the main message highlighted by JRC scientists in their Global Energy and Climate Outlook (GECO) 2021 report released today, which provides an updated assessment of global climate commitments and projections of possible increases. temperature futures.

This year’s publication offers a global view of decarbonization scenarios as well as a deep dive into G20 countries, which account for around 75% of global GHG emissions since 1990.

For each of the G20 countries, the outlook assesses multiple emission pathways taking into account currently implemented policies, the most recent goals and commitments, and more ambitious global action that would put the world on the right path. to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

GECO 2021 stresses that substantial additional action will be required if the targets recently announced by several major economies are to be met, and that even greater action will be required to achieve a 1.5°C target.

The report also reveals potential reduction options across sectors, technologies and countries to align emissions with these goals, and provides in-depth analysis of global trends in energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. ).

Towards climate neutrality

This year, the GECO 2021 report focuses on climate action driven by the latest commitments made under the Paris Agreement. The new edition takes stock of updates to the medium-term Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and long-term Net Zero Emissions (LTS) goals, as submitted before and during the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in November 2021.

The report also assesses how recent LTS announcements by major global economies – which include some net-zero emissions targets – could affect the global effort for the low-carbon transition in the coming decades.

The GECO 2021 report shows that the recently announced targets for the short term (2030) and the long term (2050) would represent a clear break with historical trends and current policies.

The GECO 2021 analysis shows that if all countries meet these newly announced national targets (targets submitted in official UNFCCC documents or simply announced), the global temperature increase could be limited to 1.8°C from here 2100 (50% probability).

This figure is significantly lower than that assessed in previous editions of GECO; in 2019, the outlook calculated a temperature change of 2.7°C in an NDC scenario, with emissions not stabilizing until 2035-2040.

The new NDCs and LTS peak emissions around 2023, reducing them until 2050 and then stabilizing in the middle of the century, closing more than 80% of the emission gap around 1.5°C. An interesting feature common to all scenarios is that all show long-term stabilized emissions, with no discernible rebound induced by economic growth. This suggests a true decarbonization of our economic systems, where growth is decoupled from rising emissions.

Global Primary Energy Supply by Fuel, 1.5°C-Uniform Scenario

© EU 2021

However, substantial additional actions are needed to limit climate change to 1.5°C by 2100, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement and reaffirmed by parties to the Paris Agreement at COP26 in Glasgow.

The 1.5°C temperature goal requires global GHG emissions to decline rapidly over the next few decades and reach net zero by the start of the second half of the century.

Therefore, more ambitious targets are needed, both in the short term to achieve a steeper decline in emissions by 2030, and in the long term, as some large emitters have not yet adopted a net zero or only aim after 2050.

On top of that, strong action is needed for countries to achieve the goals they have already set themselves, as shown by the distance between current policies and NDC-LTS scenarios.

The transition to a low-carbon economy would initially rely mainly on the electricity generation sector. While a reduction in coal is the most significant change in primary energy consumption when moving from current policies to the NDC-LTS scenario, reaching the 1.5°C target would imply a sharp reduction in all fuels fossils.

In 2019, more than three-quarters (83%) of global energy demand was still met by fossil fuels, despite the significant growth in renewable energy over the previous decade. Fossil fuels represent only 29% of the energy supply in the 1.5C-Uniform scenario in 2050.


Global GHG emissions (left) and global average temperature increase (right)

© EU 2021

By aiming for the 1.5°C target, alongside achieving mostly carbon-free electricity generation, significant efforts are being made to improve energy efficiency, advance electrification and reduce emissions from climate change. land use.

Emission reductions are needed at all levels and the corresponding transition may have implications for the sectoral composition of employment. GECO 2021 provides insight into the labor market transition behind low carbon pathways.


In 2019, the EU announced its target to become climate neutral by 2050. This target was confirmed as part of EU climate law, alongside a commitment to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels (previous 2030 target was at least -40%). In order to achieve these reinforced objectives, the European Commission proposed the “Fit for 55” legislative package in July 2021.

However, as the EU accounts for only 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the challenge of limiting global warming must be taken up on a global level.

Several major emitters like the United States, China and India have recently announced climate change commitments that bring the world closer to the Paris Agreement target. GECO 2021 aims to reveal the implications of these pledges for emissions, energy systems and labor markets around the world, informing the global stocktaking process.

This GECO report is the seventh edition of the GECO series. It contributes to the work of the RCC in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which have recently called for action urgent coordinated global meeting on the climate crisis, unequivocally caused by human activities. .

Related content

JRC Report – Global Energy and Climate Outlook 2021: Towards Climate Neutrality

GECO 2021 webpage on the Science Hub

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