While many countries are pondering their responses to the economic crisis arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and as the question faces them of how to articulate these with strategies to fight climate change, what can energy-transition foresight bring to the table? Continuing the ‘Energy-Climate’ series of articles begun in these pages in March, Patrick Criqui and Henri Waisman offer an analysis of the various foresight tools developed over the last half-century to inform decisions in the area of energy transition.
After going back over the history of the development of integrated energy-economy-environment modelling studies, which had their golden age in the period 1992-2014, they stress the limits this kind of foresight has run up against internationally, beginning with the Paris Agreements, which encouraged the reintroduction of the ‘political-economy’ dimension into transition scenarios. Since then, a new approach has consisted in combining scoping based on the comprehensive integrated models approach with national modelling, in order to reconcile international objectives of decarbonization with the socio-economic priorities and context specific to each state. The authors outline the guiding principles of foresight exercises in this area (which draw on the experience of the National Debate on energy transition in France) and present an example of implementation in the shape of the Deep Decarbonization PathwaysProject. Lastly, they mention various lines of strategic thinking aiming towards carbon neutrality — a key point in these being a change in lifestyles — and the constraints inherent in having to gain society’s acceptance for such measures. This broad conspectus of the evolution of energy-transition foresight will be an essential tool for taking long-term exigencies into account in the strategies currently being drawn up for overcoming the present crisis.