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Energy systems in scenarios at net-zero CO2 emissions

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Abstract: Achieving net-zero CO2 emissions has become the explicit goal of many climate-energy policies around the world. Although many studies have assessed net-zero emissions pathways, the common features and tradeoffs of energy systems across global scenarios at the point of net-zero CO2 emissions have not yet been evaluated. Here, we examine the energy systems of 177 net-zero scenarios and discuss their long-term technological and regional characteristics in the context of current energy policies. We find that, on average, renewable energy sources account for 60% of primary energy at net-zero (compared to ∼14% today), with slightly less than half of that renewable energy derived from biomass. Meanwhile, electricity makes up approximately half of final energy consumed (compared to ∼20% today), highlighting the extent to which solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels remain prevalent in the scenarios even when emissions reach net-zero. Finally, residual emissions and offsetting negative emissions are not evenly distributed across world regions, which may have important implications for negotiations on burden-sharing, human development, and equity.

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