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Consensus thinking holds that the world will have a hard time reaching the headline goal of the Paris Agreement — keeping the increase in global average temperature to less than 2°C above preindustrial levels. Moreover, in the absence of coordinated global action, countries that unilaterally pursue a “2°C path” will face significant first-mover disadvantages.

While the first point is very likely true, the second is not. There are clear paths for most countries to achieve substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can generate near-term macroeconomic payback. Just about all leading emitters could eliminate 75% to 90% of the gap between emissions under current policies and their individual 2050 2°C Paris targets using proven and generally accepted technologies. If they prioritize the most efficient emissions reduction measures, taking the necessary steps will actually accelerate, rather than slow, GDP growth for many countries. All countries can generate economic gain by moving at least part of the way — even if they move unilaterally.

BCG recently completed a study of the economically optimized paths for implementing climate change mitigation efforts in Germany. Using this work as a model, we analyzed six other countries that, together with Germany, collectively account for close to 60% of current global GHG emissions: China, the US, India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa. For each country, we examined three scenarios: the “current policies path,” the “proven technologies path,” and the “full 2°C path.”

This report presents the results of our work, including, summaries of the impact of accelerated climate mitigation actions on each country that we studied. The next few chapters examine our main findings and their implications. Principal among our observations is that there are good economic as well as environmental reasons for many countries to step up their climate change mitigation efforts — starting now.

In Klimapfade für Deutschland (or Climate Paths for Germany), one of the most comprehensive studies of national emissions reduction potential to date, BCG, together with the economic research firm Prognos, recently assessed how Germany can meet its stated goal of reducing GHG emissions by 72% to 93% (versus 2015 levels) by 2050. (This is equivalent to the officially quoted 80% to 95% reduction with respect to 1990 levels.1) The study presented economically optimized climate-change mitigation paths for reaching these goals, and the findings were surprising.

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