Historical precedents and feasibility of rapid coal and gas decline required for the 1.5°C target

Vadim Vinichenko, Aleh Cherp, Jessica Jewell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To limit global warming to 1.5°C, fossil fuel use must rapidly decline, but historical precedents for such large-scale transitions are lacking. Here we identify 147 historical episodes and policy pledges of fossil fuel decline in 105 countries and global regions between 1960 and 2018. We analyze 43 cases in larger systems most relevant to climate scenarios. One-half of 1.5°C-compatible scenarios envision coal decline in Asia faster than in any of these cases. The remaining scenarios as well as many scenarios for coal and gas decline in other regions have precedents only where oil was replaced by coal, gas, or nuclear power in response to energy security threats. Achieving the 1.5°C target will be difficult in the absence of fossil fuel decline mechanisms that extend far beyond historical experience or current pledges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1477-1490
Number of pages14
JournalOne Earth
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History

Free keywords

  • climate change mitigation
  • climate mitigation scenarios
  • coal phase-out
  • energy transitions
  • feasibility
  • fossil fuel decline
  • fossil fuel phase-out
  • integrated assessment models
  • IPCC scenarios


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