Wind turbines in Zhejiang province, China. Photo: jia yu / Getty Images

The increasingly serious situation of global warming necessitates deep decarbonization in our economy. Attaining this goal requires effective policy design at all levels, particularly to address externalities and other market failures that are contributing to climate degradation.

Model-based integrated analysis can play a critical role in envisioning and testing effective decarbonization policies. Credible approaches include feasible least-cost pathways, quantification of multiple uncertainties, and consideration of difficult-to-model, but crucial, factors, such as innovation processes, business strategies, and political struggles. Since the historical record shows that carbon emissions have been highly related to economic development in most countries, the compatibility of decarbonization and economic performance is a central question.

Analyses must moreover account for the interplay among policies. An overall carbon pricing policy might be preferred for decarbonization on grounds of efficiency, but a combination of policies can have a superior effect. Models should be able to examine both cases and evaluate the impacts of existing policies in various future scenarios. Another key issue is how to represent dynamics at sectoral and regional levels, particularly with regard to energy restructuring. As a whole, achieving deep decarbonization is a complicated issue that involves economics, politics, technology and finance, implicating active interaction and deep integration of different domains.

To contribute to deep decarbonization through the ongoing policy-oriented research, this special issue sought to compile, interrelate, and highlight studies that can shed light on key issues in future energy and economic decarbonization, also in the hopes of bringing new inspiration to its readers and to society at large.