Pathways to Decarbonisation

“We know that we need the decarbonisation in the course of this century”, said Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the end of the G7 summit in summer 2015. Which pathways lead to a low-carbon economy is explored by researchers from those 16 countries that are responsible for 70 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, including the US, Brasil, South Africa, India, China and Russia, in the “Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project” (DDPP). 

"Deep decarbonisation", that is the radical setback of especially carbon dioxide emissions, mainly asks for a profound energy system transition by mid-century. The country study of Germany was conducted by the Wuppertal Institute, which was able to make use of its longstanding expertise in designing and meta-analysing long-term oriented energy system scenarios.

Pathways to Decarbonisation

As early as 1990 the Enquete Commission "Protecting the Earth" of the German Parliament found greenhouse gas emission reductions by 80 per cent by 2050 necessary for Germany to comply with the ultimate goal of the UN climate convention. Based on this target the Wuppertal Institute has long before the German Energy Transition movement conducted several long term scenario analyses for the German energy system which show that energy use can become much more efficient by 2050 and the energy demand could be supplied by Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and renewable energies. Furthermore, a reduction on the demand side due to a transition in energy use (energy sufficiency) is an important factor for the radical setback of CO2 emissions.

When it comes to the exit of the fossil fuel based energy system, three agent-levels play a key role:

The economy faces the task of decarbonising products and services, as well as developing new business areas. Here, the Wuppertal Institute shows ways in which the industry can transform, what sustainable power plant complexes could look like, or how the decarbonisation of the energy intensive primary industry can be accomplished.

The climate protection policy of cities and municipalities also should orientate itself strategically towards the long-term objective of a low-carbon society. The Wuppertal Institute showed, for example, in the study "Sustainable Urban Infrastructure: Munich – Roads towards a Carbon-Free Future", which was conducted together with Siemens, that Munich is capable of reducing the CO2 emissions by up to 90 per cent by mid-century. The study shows simultaneously, though, that transforming a city into a virtually carbon-free urban environment will be a major challenge - one that can only be mastered if achieving this aim becomes top priority for all stakeholders.

Energy systems are also shaped on both the national and international level. By contributing studies on Germany, paying special attention to the energy stronghold of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), which have been developed in a broad participative dialogue with more than 400 stakeholders from various fields in NRW, as well as studies on other countries such as Tunisia, Iran, the Czech Republic and Hungary, the Wuppertal Institute strengthens the respective political discourse on the transformation of energy systems from a sustainable point of view.


Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick

Tel.: +49 202 2492-121

Fax: +49 202 2492-198

Prof. Dr. Stefan Lechtenböhmer

Tel.: +49 202 2492-216

Fax: +49 202 2492-198

Publi- cations

Here you find publications on decarbonisation.


Here you find research activities in the field of decarbonisation.