Top-down and bottom-up modelling to support low-carbon scenarios: Climate policy implications

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Bottom-up and top-down models are used to support climate policies, to identify the options required to meet GHG abatement targets and to evaluate their economic impact. Some studies have shown that the GHG mitigation options provided by economic top-down and technological bottom-up models tend to vary. One reason for this is that these models tend to use different baseline scenarios. The bottom-up TIMES_PT and the top-down computable general equilibrium GEM-E3_PT models are examined using a common baseline scenario to calibrate them, and the extend of their different mitigation options and its relevant to domestic policy making are assessed. Three low-carbon scenarios for Portugal until 2050 are generated, each with different GHG reduction targets. Both models suggest close mitigation options and locate the largest mitigation potential to energy supply. However, the models suggest different mitigation options for the end-use sectors: GEM-E3_PT focuses more on energy efficiency, while TIMES_PT relies on decrease carbon intensity due to a shift to electricity. Although a common baseline scenario cannot be ignored, the models' inherent characteristics are the main factor for the different outcomes, thereby highlighting different mitigation options. Policy relevance The relevance of modelling tools used to support the design of domestic climate policies is assessed by evaluating the mitigation options suggested by a bottom-up and a top-down model. The different outcomes of each model are significant for climate policy design since each suggest different mitigation options like end-use energy efficiency and the promotion of low-carbon technologies. Policy makers should carefully select the modelling tool used to support their policies. The specific modelling structures of each model make them more appropriate to address certain policy questions than others. Using both modelling approaches for policy support can therefore bring added value and result in more robust climate policy design. Although the results are specific for Portugal, the insights provided by the analysis of both models can be extended to, and used in the climate policy decisions of, other countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-304
Number of pages20
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2013


  • bottom-up models
  • climate change
  • domestic policy design
  • energy sector
  • low-carbon scenarios
  • top-down models


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