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Expert Perceptions of Game-changing Innovations towards Net Zero


Current technological improvements are yet to put the world on track to net-zero, which will require the uptake of transformative low-carbon innovations to supplement mitigation efforts. However, the role of such innovations is not yet fully understood; some of these ‘miracles’ are considered indispensable to Paris Agreement-compliant mitigation, but their limitations, availability, and potential remain a source of debate. We evaluate such potentially game-changing innovations from the experts’ perspective, aiming to support the design of realistic decarbonisation scenarios and better-informed net-zero policy strategies. In a worldwide survey, 260 climate and energy experts assessed transformative innovations against their mitigation potential, at-scale availability and/or widescale adoption, and risk of delayed diffusion. Hierarchical clustering and multi-criteria decision-making revealed differences in perceptions of core technological innovations, with next generation energy storage, alternative building materials, iron-ore electrolysis, and hydrogen in steelmaking emerging as top priorities. Instead, technologies highly represented in well-below-2◦C scenarios seemingly feature considerable and impactful delays, hinting at the need to re-evaluate their role in future pathways. Experts’ assessments appear to converge more on the potential role of other disruptive innovations, including lifestyle shifts and alternative economic models, indicating the importance of scenarios including non-technological and demand-side innovations. To provide insights for expert elicitation processes, we finally note caveats related to the level of representativeness among the 260 engaged experts, the level of their expertise that may have varied across the examined innovations, and the potential for subjective interpretation to which the employed linguistic scales may be prone to.

Funding source: This work was supported by the H2020 European Commission Project “PARIS REINFORCE” under Grant Agreement No. 820846, the Horizon Europe European Commission Project “IAM COMPACT” under Grant No. 101056306, and the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) and General Secretariat for Research and Innovation (GSRI) project “ATOM” under Grant Agreement No. HFRI-FM17–2566.
Related subjects: Policy & Socio-Economics

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