The potential contribution of disruptive low-carbon innovations to 1.5 °C climate mitigation

Charles Wilson, Hazel Pettifor, Emma Cassar, Laurie Kerr, Mark Wilson

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36 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper investigates the potential for consumer-facing innovations to contribute emission reductions for limiting warming to 1.5 °C. First, we show that global integrated assessment models which characterise transformation pathways consistent with 1.5 °C mitigation are limited in their ability to analyse the emergence of novelty in energy end-use. Second, we introduce concepts of disruptive innovation which can be usefully applied to the challenge of 1.5 °C mitigation. Disruptive low-carbon innovations offer novel value propositions to consumers and can transform markets for energy-related goods and services while reducing emissions. Third, we identify 99 potentially disruptive low-carbon innovations relating to mobility, food, buildings and cities, and energy supply and distribution. Examples at the fringes of current markets include car clubs, mobility-as-a-service, prefabricated high-efficiency retrofits, internet of things, and urban farming. Each of these offers an alternative to mainstream consumer practices. Fourth, we assess the potential emission reductions from subsets of these disruptive low-carbon innovations using two methods: a survey eliciting experts’ perceptions and a quantitative scaling-up of evidence from early-adopting niches to matched segments of the UK population. We conclude that disruptive low-carbon innovations which appeal to consumers can help efforts to limit warming to 1.5 °C.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423–440
Number of pages18
JournalEnergy Efficiency
Issue number2
Early online date21 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2019


  • Consumers
  • Energy end-use
  • Innovation
  • Mitigation

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