Three Decades of Climate Mitigation: Why Haven't We Bent the Global Emissions Curve?

Isak Stoddard, Kevin Anderson, Stuart Capstick, Wim Carton, Joanna Depledge, Keri Facer, Clair Gough, Frederic Hache, Claire Hoolohan, Martin Hultman, Niclas Hällström, Sivan Kartha, Sonja Klinsky, Magdalena Kuchler, Eva Lövbrand, Naghmeh Nasiritousi, Peter Newell, Glen P. Peters, Youba Sokona, Andy StirlingMatthew Stilwell, Clive L. Spash, Mariama Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Despite three decades of political efforts and a wealth of research on the causes and catastrophic impacts of climate change, global carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise and are 60% higher today than they were in 1990. Exploring this rise through nine thematic lenses-covering issues of climate governance, the fossil fuel industry, geopolitics, economics, mitigation modeling, energy systems, inequity, lifestyles, and social imaginaries-draws out multifaceted reasons for our collective failure to bend the global emissions curve. However, a common thread that emerges across the reviewed literature is the central role of power, manifest in many forms, from a dogmatic political-economic hegemony and influential vested interests to narrow techno-economic mindsets and ideologies of control. Synthesizing the various impediments to mitigation reveals how delivering on the commitments enshrined in the Paris Agreement now requires an urgent and unprecedented transformation away from today's carbon- and energy-intensive development paradigm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-689
Number of pages37
JournalAnnual Review of Environment and Resources
StatePublished - 2021


  • climate mitigation
  • energy transitions
  • knowledge traditions
  • lock-ins
  • power
  • societal transformations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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