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Project LIMITS

Low climate IMpact scenarios and the Implications of required Tight emission control Strategies
Project Description

LIMITS was a 3-year research project, which was attended by 10 partners from Europe, China, India and to which research centers from the United States and Japan collaborated.


    The goal of the LIMITS project was to identify mitigation strategies at the global level, focusing on the actions needed by the major economies to reach the goal of limiting global temperature rise to below 2°C.

    Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our civilization. Its broad, long-lasting and uncertain nature makes it one of the most difficult problems ever addressed. Evaluating the shift from current emission trends to a long-term objective of carbon neutrality has been a key interest for  researchers and policy makers in recent years. However, the problem of this transition has mostly been considered at a global level, without an explicit declination of what it means to implement severe climate targets in the main countries responsible for emissions. This is the challenge behind the LIMITS project. For the first time a series of models designed to study the interaction between the sectors of economy, energy, land use and climate - the so-called "integrated assessment models" - has combined the forces to investigate the consequences of the implementation of post-2020 climate agreements in all major economies. The project evaluated a number of aspects concerning the implementation of these strategies, including the political, institutional and financial requirements, and the changes necessary at the level of energy infrastructure and land use. Synergies and necessary compromises with other urgent global priorities, such as energy security, air pollution and economic development were explored.

    These global models, supported by local experts from some key emerging economies, have predicted the consequences of climate, environmental and energy legislation for the major economies. The research effort has greatly increased understanding of the challenges and opportunities that different countries have to face when deciding to fight climate change. This project, which compared different scenarios, with different degrees of regional ambition, of global cooperation policies and political coverage, has provided the most complete model-based assessment of the regional implications of climate change management.

    For this purpose a community-based research approach was implemented. Research teams from different countries simulated a variety of different policy outputs, informing the scientific community and policy-makers.

    Project Phases

    The LIMITS project evaluated, through the use of "integrated assessment models", a series of critical questions particularly relevant for climate-related political decisions:

    • Is the achievement of strict climate policies feasible from the economic and technical points of view?
    • What investments are needed to implement the transformations of the energy system and how can countries favor these investments?
    • What is the role of policies in promoting mitigation, and in recognizing the diversity of regional and national interests?
    • Can mitigation policies help countries to achieve co-benefits related to energy security and air quality?

    LIMITS had 7 main work-packages (WP).

    The first 4 WPs included most of the research work carried out within the project.

    In particular, WP1 (Global mitigation pathways for limiting global temperature increase below 2oC) was designed to establish a complete set of "2 ° C scenarios", which was used as a reference framework for more detailed investigations in the rest of the project.

    WP2 (Implementation in major economies: Policy, institutional and financing needs) analyzed the policy, institutional and financial requirements to implement "2°C" policies in the main economies.

    WP3 (Implementation in major economies: Changes to energy infrastructure and land use patterns) examined the feasibility of rapid changes required in energy infrastructure and land use in the main economies.

    Finally, WP4 (Multiple benefits of climate mitigation and implications for development) analyzed how strict climate mitigation policies impact and influence progress towards the main national objectives, in particular those concerning energy security and air pollution, as well as economic growth and development.

    In addition to research, LIMITS aimed to disseminate project results to a wide audience. To this end, various project meetings and stakeholder meetings were organized in Italy, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, China and Belgium.

    Project Results

    The main result of the LIMITS project was to provide an assessment of the emission reduction strategies at the global level and at that of the main world economies, and to evaluate their implementation in terms of:

    • Definition of emission reduction paths based on different hypotheses about technology availability, policy regimes, implementation obstacles and assessment of the regional distribution of mitigation at the level of the main economies;
    • Evaluation of investment needs to implement these transformation paths and of financing mechanisms that allow resources to be better gathered and allocated;
    • Evaluation of national and international policies that are necessary to ensure that the transition to a low-emission energy infrastructure is efficiently achieved, taking into account specific obstacles of the respective economies;
    • Quantification of changes in energy infrastructure and land use that major economies need to implement to achieve strict climate policies;
    • Evaluation of the interconnections of climate policies with other issues such as energy security, air pollution and economic development.

    The main research insights emerging from the LIMITS project can be summarized as follows:

    • Short-term policies can provide important impulses for long-term actions;
    • The 2°C target requires a peak in emissions from all the major regions of the world within this or the next decade;
    • A limit of 2°C would require a significant reduction in carbon budgets in all the major economies, halving approximately the carbon budgets currently proposed in the negotiations;
    • The potential for mitigation options differs from region to region;
    • Regional characteristics imply different mitigation models and costs: under the same carbon tax, developing countries would pay a higher cost;
    • Climate policies lead to important reductions in air pollution, with great short-term health benefits;
    • Climate policies would significantly improve energy security, but not vice versa;
    • The effects of climate policies on energy security vary from region to region.

    The project has led to a significant number of publications in peer reviewed literature and in prestigious journals. Many of the papers produced as part of the LIMITS project were cited in the 5th Evaluation Report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change).

    The reports produced within the project include:

    The outputs of the research activities of the LIMITS project helped to inform the current international climate negotiations and were disseminated in a series of stakeholder meetings and conferences around the world.

    Number of reference
    Reference Programme
    Beneficiary Coordinator
    Massimo Tavoni
    EU contribution
    Call Year
    Start Year
    End Year
    Beneficiary headquarters

    Corso Magenta 63
    20123 MILANO MI