Wedging the Gap

An emissions gap of 15 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) looms between our projected global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020 and the emissions pathway which could keep long-term temperature change below 2°C.

Ecofys, together with partner CISL (Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership) is leading an effort to support bottom-up initiatives to bridge this 2020 emissions gap. The work is based on an approach initiated by Ecofys, called ‘Wedging the Gap’, which assessed the potential of 21 major efforts, or ‘wedges’, that together would trigger greenhouse-gas emission reductions of around 10 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2e) by 2020. Such an effort would support and go substantially beyond the emission reductions proposed by national governments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). For more on the idea behind this original approach, including our scientific publication in the journal Nature Climate Change, see our publications.


After attracting great attention at the two most recent conferences of the parties (COP-18 in Doha and COP-19 in Warsaw), the approach has entered the public stage under the umbrella of ‘International Cooperative Initiatives’ (ICIs). Ecofys has contributed to two major reports on these (a Technical Paper for the UNFCCC and a chapter in the 2013 UNEP Emissions Gap Report). We have also been invited to present on the idea at recent meetings of the UNFCCC and the World Economic Forum. 

Past and ongoing work

We have now begun the first stage of qualitative and quantitative analysis and stakeholder outreach, funded by various European governments. A status report including an initial analysis was published in March 2014, supported by the Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure and the Environment.

Ecofys proposes a three-tiered approach to accelerating the impact of International Cooperative Intiatives.
It quantified the potential of existing efforts in 12 of the 21 areas and recommended three main activities to bring initiatives forward:

  • Tracking,
  • Sharing and
  • Seeding and Strengthening.

related piece of analysis, which also assessed the question of feasibility of target attainment based on interviews with the initiatives themselves, was done for the Nordic Council of Ministers (NOAK). A more comprehensive analysis will be undertaken during the course of 2014. It will survey and attempt to quantify the potential from International Cooperative Initiatives (ICIs) which operate primarily in the private sector, with the aim to boost understanding and subsequently activity in this promising domain.

To learn more about the project and how you can get involved, please contact the project leaders on the right!

List of events and publications

Date Title Description


Launch of the Climate Initiatives Platform

Online tool to monitor climate initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The tool and report were commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers and prepared by Ecofys with support from CISL and World Resources Institute.

Aug 2015 Better partnerships: Increasing impact of cooperative initiatives Based on five running private sector initiatives addressing climate change mitigation, CISL and Ecofys have assessed their potential impact and major lessons learned. Apart from providing a number of economic and social co-benefits, the initiatives could jointly achieve emissions reductions of up to 500 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents by 2020 if scaled.
Jan 2015 Impact of the private sector in closing the emissions gap As part of a project for the German government, Ecofys and the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) are researching the impact of a small group of private-sector cooperative initiatives in helping to reduce emissions.
Presentation of the Climate Initiatives Database  During COP20 in Lima, the Nordic Council of Ministers, Ecofys, CISL and WRI, introduced an online database tracking the activities of climate initiatives globally. The event brought together different parties to the UNFCCC to discuss new work exploring the role of Cooperative Initiatives, and debate the value of a framework capturing non-state climate action.
Apr 2014 Enhancing the Ambition of International Cooperative Initiatives This report for the Nordic Council of Ministers examines the potential of International Cooperative Initiatives (ICIs) across key thematic areas including: renewable energy, energy efficiency, fossil fuel subsidy reform, reducing deforestation and managing fluorinated GHG and short-lived climate pollutants.
Mar 2014 Policy Menu to strengthen ambition In this report, Ecofys proposes the development of a policy menu for ICIs that integrates best practice policies with options for international financial and technical support.
Mar 2014 Status report and initial analysis Synthesis report showing the genesis of the Wedging the Gap and ICI concept over the last years, results of initial analysis on the potential of ICIs in twelve areas to bridge the emissions gap, and options for a way forward building on the three tracks of Tracking, Sharing and Strengthening/ Seeding.
Jan 2014 World Economic Forum Presentation
Nov 2013 UNEP gap report 2013 The 2013 update of the United Nations’ emissions gap report includes a chapter on International Cooperative Initiatives and acknowledges that they can play a key role in narrowing/closing the gap.
Aug 2013 World Economic Forum Presentation
May 2013 First & second UNFCCC Technical Paper on ICIs Ecofys supported the UNFCCC secretariat with anlayses and synthesis of submissions to the Advanced Durban Platform 2 (ADP2) and the preparation of technical papers (TPs) (see also Add.1Add.2Data portal)
Nov 2012 COP-18 at Doha Presentation
June 2012 Original Nature Climate Change paper on Wedging the Gap In this scientific article in the journal Nature Climate Change, Ecofys proposes a new approach—coined ‘Wedging the gap’—which consists of 21 coherent major initiatives that together would trigger greenhouse-gas emission reductions of around 10 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Gt CO2e) by 2020.