Managing the Low-Carbon Transition - From Model Results to Policies

The ultimate goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is “the stabilization of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (UN 1992). Several studies have indicated that unabated growth of GHGs is expected to result in severe and potentially irreversible impacts on natural and human systems. The target, however, that would prevent “dangerous” climate change cannot be determined unambiguously.

Model analysis within the ADAM project has shown that achieving low greenhouse gas concentration levels, e.g. at 400ppm CO2-eq, is technologically feasible at costs of a few percent of GDP. However, models simplify the dynamics involved in implementing climate policy and the results depend on critical model assumptions such as global participation in climate policy and full availability of current and newly evolving technologies. The design of a low stabilization policy regime in the real world depends on factors that can only be partly covered by models. In this context, the paper reflects on limits of the integrated assessment models used to explore climate policy and addresses the issues of:

  1. how global participation might be achieved,
  2. which kind of options are available to induce deep GHG reductions inside and outside the energy sector,
  3. which risks and which co-benefits of mitigation options are not assessed by the models.

Related articles in special issue of The Energy Journal

More information on ADAM project

ADAM supports the EU in the development of post-2012 global climate policies, the definition of European mitigation policies to reach its 2020 goals, and the emergence of new adaptation policies for Europe with special attention to the role of extreme weather events.


Knopf B, Edenhofer O, Flachsland C, Kok MTJ, Lotze-Campen H, Luderer G, Popp A, van Vuuren DP


Publication title
Managing the Low-Carbon Transition - From Model Results to Policies
Publication date
15 June 2010
Publication type
The Energy Journal, Volume 31, Special Issue, pages 223-245
Product number