Innovators and Global Leaders

Plenary Session 3

- Directing Innovation for Net-Zero Emissions: Transformational Narratives -

Session background and objectives

・Blockchain and related innovations may fundamentally alter the way of economic transactions in social systems; they may reduce or even eliminate the traditional role of intermediate companies such as banks, energy traders and other wholesale businesses.

・Intensive research by scientists as well as extensive dialogue among various stakeholders are indispensable elements in identifying the optimal path towards achievement of Net-Zero Emissions.

・In this session, distinguished speakers from diverse aspects of climate change research are invited to discuss on the latest in the quest for Net-Zero Emissions and narratives transforming the energy infrastructure and society towards a carbon-free future.


Nebojsa Nakicenovic[Moderator]


Deputy Director General and Deputy CEO, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA); Professor Emeritus, Vienna University of Technology (TU WIEN)

James A. Edmonds

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Laboratory Fellow and Chief Scientist, Joint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Keigo Akimoto

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Group Leader of Systems Analysis Group, Chief Researcher, Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE)


Challenges and opportunities for net zero CO2 emission harmonized with sustainable development

Net zero CO2 emissions will be required for the temperature stabilizations while the other SDGs must be achieved harmoniously. Many Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) provide feasible solutions for achieving the 2 C target including the 450 ppm CO2eq. pathway; however, the mitigation costs estimated by the IAMs are huge and unrealistic in the real world. Alternative scenarios must be considered beyond the current IAM framework. For tackling climate change sustainably, carbon price must be kept low, and technological and social innovations particularly in products and services contributing to high energy productivity, which are crucial for that, must be promoted.

Vaclav Smil

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Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Manitoba


Forecasts of rapid decarbonisation are easy to make, but realities intervene. The greatest long-term challenge will be to displace fossil carbon in several key industrial uses (smelting of iron, production of cement, synthesis of ammonia and plastics) and in long-range air and ocean transportation because we either lack any readily deployable non-carbon alternatives or because the new techniques are in the earliest stages of development and hence far from able to meet the requisite mass-scale needs. Development and adoption of non-carbon alternatives will require two to three generations (50-75 years) before they become dominant.

David Victor

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Professor of International Relations, School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego (UCSD)


Two years ago the world adopted the Paris framework along with Mission Innovation, flexible and potentially effective systems for promoting international cooperation on climate change. But are they working in ways that will accelerate the needed radical transformation in energy technologies as required to make deep cuts in emissions? This talk will identify shortcomings of the current approach and focus on models that could be much more effective. It will emphasize the need for promoting technologies within niches where they can be improved and the role for direct regulation instead of simply carbon pricing as an impetus for change.

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