Getting into the Right Lane for 2050. A primer for debate

27-10-2009 | Publication

Reasoning back from 2050, specific strategic actions are identified for the EU in the coming five to ten years. Key factors in the analysis are the magnitude and inherent slow pace of change.The European Union is placed in a visionary global perspective for 2050 of producing food for a global population of nine billion, while minimising biodiversity loss; mitigating climate change, while enhancing energy security; and developing a low-carbon transport system for the EU.

Long-term vision identifies current strategic choices

Getting into the Right Lane for 2050 examines the EU of today, from a global perspective, and looks at long-term visions on the world of 2050. It identifies key decisions for today on global land and water resources, and low-carbon energy systems, including transport.

Critical junctions that will be encountered early on the route to 2050 are identified. Looking back from 2050, some junctions are clearly dead ends or may be a wrong turn that goes only part of the way to the vision. The choices require EU leadership and relate to global collaboration and to the development of the infrastructure in the EU.

Low-carbon transport: aviation and shipping will determine success

For example, greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and maritime transport, by 2050, will equal those from transport in and around urban areas. However, solutions for aviation and shipping are more difficult and thus time-consuming, both technically and in terms of global collaboration. Therefore, while low-carbon transport in and around urban areas in the EU already calls for major changes, timely initiatives in low-carbon aviation and shipping are necessary. As a step in this direction, the EU ministers have indeed proposed concrete global emission targets for aviation and shipping for 2020, to be tabled in the upcoming negotiations in Copenhagen.


In moving towards 2050, diversity of options emerges as a key factor in securing low-carbon energy supply and transport in the EU, while in global land use, diversity helps to protect against ‘shocks’ to the agricultural system in a very crowded world. The study highlights the Mediterranean basin as the logical area to pioneer new forms of agricultural policy, prioritising diversity in land and water management.

Implications for EU decision-making

The EU is shown to have a pivotal role in establishing the investment framework for continental–scale infrastructure, such as a modern power grid for cost-effective use of low-carbon energy. In the world arena, timely action is needed before EU leverage, for instance, on global product standards, shrinks as new players become more prominent towards 2050.


The report has been prepared by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Note: On page 34 the labels of figure 3.4 has been inadvertently switched. The pdf on this page is the corrected version.