Imperial College London

How to maximise Calculator impact on climate policy ahead of COP26

Measuring the Impact of Climate Calculators

It’s time to take stock of the impact Calculators have had on creating pathways to net-zero.

Written by Isabelle Hillson

Over 10 years after the first 2050 Calculator was created – and six calculators later – it’s time to take stock of the impact Calculators have had on creating pathways to net-zero. The 2050 Calculator allows users to design a future energy system and to instantly see the impact of their choices on emissions. Therefore, with under six months to COP26 and the need for more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to stay within 1.5°C of global warming, it’s important to recognise the Calculator’s potential to influence and help determine future climate ambitions.

To-date impact

There are 61 Calculators in countries, territories and cities across the world to date,and also a Global and European Calculator. The UK’s International Climate Finance (ICF) funded 10 Calculators during the first phase of its programme. All 10 countries in the original programme launched finished 2050 Calculator tools as planned. Four of the original projects – Colombia, India, Nigeria and Vietnam – have had key policy impacts, using their Calculators to develop NDCs in 2015. In addition:

  • India also used its Calculator in the development of its National Energy Policy in 2017;
  • Vietnam used its Calculator for inputs to its Power Development Plan;
  • Colombian ministries used theirs to define how to reduce each sector’s emissions by 20%, and created regional versions, so that regional governments could use Calculators to plan their decarbonisation.

Over 30 additional countries, cities and regions have started work on Calculator projects
(17 of which have launched models) since the ICF programme began, using the resources produced for the programme and the advice from the original programme team. There’s now evidence that the Calculators are having policy impacts in these territories:

  • The Calculator was used to develop the NDC for Montenegro;
  • The Czech Calculator has been used to develop the country’s climate protection policy (which is also its mid-century strategy under the Paris Agreement);
  • In Taiwan, the Calculator was used by two local governments to evaluate their energy policies; and
  • In China, the Calculator was used to develop pathways to net-zero by 2060.

We’ve continued to receive requests for support from developing countries outside the programme since its launch, showing that there is unmet demand.

Calculators have been used in outreach to industry stakeholders and as educational tools
Stakeholder workshops with finished models have taken place in at least five countries. The project has promoted openness and transparency in these countries. In many cases, the 2050 Calculator marks the first-time energy data has been made available, or that stakeholders have been consulted openly by government. Educational ‘My2050’ Calculators have been developed for Belgium, Colombia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan. The South African government created a version aimed at school children. BEIS funding supported teacher training to promote its use.

Development of a ‘Calculator community’ facilitating South-South learning (as well as South-North and North-South learning)
The enthusiasm of the international 2050 modelling community was demonstrated at four international conferences held in 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2020. The most recent conference (conducted virtually in November 2020), was attended by representatives from over 43 countries, providing opportunities to train new teams and share technical knowledge between countries.

How to maximise impact?

With COP26 fast approaching and NDC updates due before COP26, in-country teams are keen to understand how to maximise the potential policy impact of completed and up-to-date Calculators. There are several key questions to ask to understand which policy on the horizon the Calculator is best placed to feed into, before working out how to do so.

  • What is the policy trying to achieve?
    • Can the Calculator provide the right data or analysis for the policy aims? Does the Calculator need to be updated with new data? Is data readily available?
  • When will the policy become legislation?
    • Timelines are important because Calculators are best placed to feed into the policy-making process at inception or consultation stages. If an update is required, can the Calculator feed into the policy-making process at these stages?
  • Who are the policymakers? Are there existing relationships with them? If not, are they easy to engage with stakeholders? If not, can you influence them through other stakeholders?
  • How will you achieve this? Do you have the resource and capacity to undergo a stakeholder engagement plan?

If you would like advice on how to increase the impact of your Calculator in the run up to COP26, please get in touch with the Calculator consortium at

Written by Isabelle Hillson from BEIS

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