Co-organized by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE), and Development Alternatives (DA) under the umbrella of EDITS, the event took place on November 10, 2022, as an official side-event of the UNFCCC COP27. The high-level meeting addressed innovations for energy demand reduction, decarbonization of the urban environment and the construction sector, and pathways toward a net-zero society.

EDITS project © IIASA

In November 2022, Egypt hosted the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, with a view to building on previous successes and paving the way for future ambition to effectively tackle the global challenge of climate change. The vision of Egypt's COP27 presidency was to move from negotiations and planning to implementation, moving rapidly towards full, timely, inclusive, and at-scale action on the ground. 

IIASA organized an EDITS side-event on "High services with low energy and resource demand for low-carbon pathways and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)", in collaboration with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) and Development Alternatives (DA).

You can rewatch the presentations and discussions at the side-event "High services with low energy and resource demand for low-carbon pathways and the SDGs" held on 10 November, 2022 at 16:45 - 18:15 (EET), 15:45-17:15 (CEST/CET) in the Akhenaten Room.

16:45-16:50    Welcome and opening remarks
Keigo Akimoto, Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE), Japan

16:50-16:55    Welcome and opening remarks
Bharti Jasrotia, Development Alternatives (DA), India

Introductory remarks were made by the session moderator, David McCollum, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), USA, who introduced the speakers and welcomed participants. Keigo Akimoto, Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE), Japan, opened the event and talked about the background of the Energy Demand changes Induced by Technological and Social innovations (EDITS) network. EDITS has a particular focus on human activities and energy efficiency improvements, which will help address several SDGs at once. Dr. Akimoto pointed out knowledge gaps in chapter 5 of the IPCC AR6 where EDITS has leverage to inform science, including “better metrics to measure actual human well-being, evaluating the climate implications of the digital economy, scenario modeling of services, and a better understanding of the dynamic interaction between individual, social, and structural drivers of change.”

Bharti Jasrotia, Development Alternatives (DA), India, also welcomed the audience online and in person and opened the event from the DA side.

16:55-17:05    Importance of demand side solutions for the transformation towards net-zero society
Keywan Riahi, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria

Keywan Riahi, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria, talked about the importance of demand-side solutions for the transformation toward a net-zero society. He highlighted that by limiting energy demand, “we can significantly reduce dependency on technologies like carbon dioxide removal and tradeoffs with other societal objectives, particularly biodiversity and food security, which simultaneously brings about more supply side flexibility.” Further expanding on the key themes of the “High-with-Low" scenario, he pointed out novel social and technological trends to be harnessed, including changing diets, generational changes in materialism, the rise of the sharing and circular economy, digitalization, as well as rapid innovation in granular technologies and integrated digital services.


17:05-17:15    Meeting multiple policy targets of development and mitigating global crises through demand solutions
Joyashree Roy, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand

Joyashree Roy, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand, stressed the difficulty of meeting the basic human needs of populations in graduating least developed countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka, which require at least 7% economic growth to achieve this. Working on diversifying demand-side options will help address this need under the conditions of a carbon-constrained world.: “Just by reducing food waste and shifting dietary choices towards plant- and nuts-based and other healthy diets, one can reduce emissions to a large extent.” She added that people need to be empowered with the right kind of technology and infrastructure access, in addition to addressing inequality in consumption.

17:15-17:25    Urban space and society in 2050 in balance with planetary boundaries
Nan Zhou, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), USA

In her presentation, Nan Zhou, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), underlined the crucial role of technological and social innovation for demand-side deep decarbonization strategies, identifying a total of 46 measures in transport, buildings, and industry, as well as cross-sector. Among many other examples, she talked about the building sector, where “increasing the use of prefabricated parts can reduce project time by 30-50% and construction cost by up to 20%, in addition to significant emissions reductions enabled through the use of alternative building materials replacing cement, steel, glass, and others.”

17:25-17:35    Limestone Calcined Clay Cement - Breakthrough technology for reducing carbon emissions
Karen Scrivener, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

Further expanding on this point, Karen ScrivenerEcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, gave an overview of the Limestone Calcined Clay Cement (LC³) technology for reducing carbon emissions. So-called supplementary cementitious materials can substitute a large part of the widely used Portland cement: “If we combine calcined clay with limestone, we get a synergetic reaction allowing us to arrive at even higher levels of substitution. LC³ is a family of cements whereby at least half of the clinker contained in classic cement is replaced with calcined clay, which has about 1/10th of the CO2 emissions of clinker. This comes at virtually no loss in performance and saves up to 25% in production costs,” Scrivener explained.

17:35-17:45    Decarbonization of the brick sector – Practice to Policy approach
Soumen Maity, Technology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA)

Taking the example of the Indian state of Bihar, Soumen MaityTechnology and Action for Rural Advancement (TARA), India, spoke about the decarbonization of the brick sector, opening his presentation by stating that “innovation is the profitable implementation of creative ideas.” He outlined a project in collaboration with the state government aimed at making the Bihar brick sector into a carbon-neutral industry by 2070, all while ensuring a socially fair and equitable transformation. “To this end, we need to maximize the use of fly ash bricks, shift from traditional kilns to more efficient technologies, introduce hollow clay bricks, use biomass briquettes, move away entirely from coal-based fossil fuels, and promote the use of alternate building materials like the one introduced by Professor Scrivener,” he stated.

17:45-18:15    Moderated panel discussion with speakers and Q&A with audience
Discussant: Nebojsa Nakicenovic (IIASA)
Respondents: Keigo Akimoto (RITE), Keywan Riahi (IIASA), Joyashree Roy (AIT), Nan Zhou (LBNL), Karen Scrivener (EPFL), Soumen Maity (TARA)

Nebojsa Nakicenovic (IIASA) opened the panel discussion, reiterating that end-use changes are pivotal for a meaningful energy system transformation. He said, both the benefits and dangers of digital technologies need to be considered. He also underlined that low-demand scenarios provide a great narrative, but the community needs to make it more attractive by further highlighting human development aspects and co-benefit potentials.

Two commentators in the audience raised questions about how existing scenarios will accommodate propagation trends to non-affluent classes in the Global North and the Global South more broadly, and why demand-side solutions are still met with comparatively lower interest than supply-side solutions.

“We are not yet locked in on an unsustainable development path,” Prof. Roy pointed out. There is huge potential in urbanizing regions in developing countries, where cultures of shared mobility were frequently already in place before the rise of status-related car ownership. Finally, the speakers agreed that “more buzz needs to be created” around demand-side solutions, noting that the dedicated chapter in the last IPCC report presented a step in the right direction.

If you liked this content, you may be interested to learn that IIASA and RITE organized another EDITS side-event at COP27 as part of the Japan Pavilion (click here for more information).