This publication provides an overview of key facts and societal challenges related to economic, development, future energy demand and the impact that demand could have on the climate system. It forms part of the work program of the WBCSD’s Energy and Climate Council Project and provides a platform for future discussion. This will help further elaborate a business response to the challenges identified in this paper, which will require additional research and consultation.

We cannot know exactly how the world will develop over the next half century, but the scenarios used here fit with the United Nations (UN) development goals of poverty reduction and improved living standards in the developing world. Achieving these goals will require an increase in energy consumption.

Although we recognize that a range of human activities have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions and that many of these practices will have to change, the focus of this publication is on the world’s use of energy and its related impacts.

We have used existing date from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and WBCSD studies. We present it here in a simplified and condensed form to stimulate forward thinking and discussion around the issues facing us as we begin to deal with climate change. Projections and examples based on particular global emission levels and eventual CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere are only set out to illustrate the scale of the challenge.