SD.20.015 – SAFE – Socially feasible decarbonisation pathways within a safe operating space for humanity

Route: Sustainable development goals for inclusive global development

Cluster question: 019 How should we undertake the transition to an entirely sustainable energy supply?

Model-based scenarios are used extensively to inform decision-makers and society at large about possible decarbonisation pathways. However, at the moment these pathways hardly consider social feasibility or the question of how to combine decarbonisation pathways with other environmental and sustainable development goals. Therefore, in this proposal, we will fundamentally improve the effectiveness of these pathways by better accounting for social feasibility and multiple environmental goals. The starting point of our analysis are the global scenarios made by the integrated assessment model IMAGE – one of the contributors to the IPCC. We will use IMAGE to develop scenarios consistent with the Paris Climate Agreement, describing for instance required changes in energy systems and agricultural practices. We will subsequently develop new tools to explore impacts of the decarbonisation pathways on other environmental goals, here represented by the planetary boundaries, using materials flow analysis and life cycle assessment. We will also use the national scenarios on decarbonization pathways (consistent with the Netherlands climate agreement). We will also examine the social feasibility of the global and national pathways, initiating novel collaborations between natural science and social science disciplines. Specifically, relevant actors will be asked to evaluate the acceptability of various options included in the decarbonisation pathway that respect the planetary boundaries, and whether they are willing to change their behaviour as assumed in the pathways. The new insights are used in refining and improving the scenarios. The project consortium covers the full knowledge chain from academia to societal actors. It involves three academic teams (UU, RU and RUG), two national knowledge institutes (PBL and RIVM) and relevant stakeholders from government, businesses and NGOs. The large academic and societal network of the consortium (will ensure transdisciplinary research and knowledge utilization from the beginning of the project. This will result in more effective decarbonisation pathways.


environmental impacts, integrated assessment modeling, mitigation scenarios, social feasibility, sustainable development goals

Other organisations

Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (RU), Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG)


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Prof. dr. D.P. (Detlef) van Vuuren