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Research finds that Reducing Carbon Emissions will Spur Technology Innovation

In December 2015, 195 nations and the European Union formally pledged to meet nationally determined emissions-reduction targets in the Paris Agreement. Since then, many experts have observed that the national targets are not sufficient in meeting the goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius.

However, Jessika Trancik of the MIT Institute of Data, Systems, and Society recently presented research results that demonstrated that there is a mutually reinforcing cycle between emissions-reduction policies and technology development. Her analysis illustrates that for countries to meet their emissions-reduction pledges in the Paris Agreement, they need to deploy low-carbon technologies, which will spur technology innovation, lower costs, and ultimately enable further deployment of these technologies. To learn more about this cycle, read on!

 Trancik notes, “the return on emission reductions can be astonishingly large…and should feature prominently in efforts to broker an ambitious, long-term agreement among nations.” Her research team’s analysis shows that if countries meet their emissions-reduction pledges as delineated in the Paris Agreement, then the cost of electricity from solar photovoltaic systems could decrease by 50 percent and from wind systems by 25 percent between now and 2030. Moreover, the team estimates that if countries reinvest their savings as costs decline, solar deployment can increase by 40 percent and wind deployment by 20 percent.

Although Trancik agrees that the targets as written in the Paris Agreement are too weak to achieving the goal, she and her team believe countries that start cutting carbon emissions will inevitably drive down the cost of meeting current emissions-reductions targets. This will allow them to adopt stronger targets for the future.

This research has already shaped the minds of U.S. policymakers: after Trancik presented the research findings to policymakers, U.S. negotiators used the report during the Paris climate talks to encourage agreement and strengthen commitments every five years. To read more about the study, find MIT’s news release here.


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Thomas R. Burton, III

Member / Chair, Energy & Sustainability Practice

Tom Burton has helped to shape the clean energy industry by drawing on his passion for innovation. As a Mintz attorney, Tom counsels investors, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 100 companies. He also guides start-up organizations and accelerators to foster the next generation of energy leaders.