Decarbonisation: plotting the path to net zero
The focus on moving to net zero whereby carbon emissions are reduced to a minimum and any unavoidable emissions are offset by the same amount being removed from the atmosphere, has been of increasing importance in recent times. However, the emergence of coronavirus has thrown it into even sharper relief with the collapse of traditional energy markets such as coal and oil. To reach net zero requires an overhaul of behaviour - both societal and industrial - as well as improved management of waste and emissions.
Despite measures set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, emissions continue to rise. The pressure to address this in a meaningful way is greater given the restricted time which remains to reduce the harmful effects of climate change such as temperature rises. According to a recent report by Lombard Odier, temperatures are set to increase by as much as 3°C this century, a hike which would prove catastrophic for our environment. To limit the rise to below 2°C, carbon emissions must be cut by 50 percent by 2030.
The impact of the coronavirus crisis has made the need for the reduction in emissions even more crucial, with global energy companies such as BP acknowledging that there should be a strengthened commitment to sustainability. Personally, we believe they should do more than just acknowledge the need. The result will mean a transformation of business models and an accelerated push towards renewable energy. The spread of the pandemic and its dramatic effect on businesses across all industries means that the steady march towards net zero has become a race.
The push towards net zero has largely been driven by increasingly vocal calls from consumers and stakeholders along with the development of technology that can facilitate transformation. In sectors such as manufacturing and heavy industry, government intervention has also been a forceful factor. In the UK, the government has announced an injection of more than £800 million into infrastructure to capture and bury millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.
Policy has been a key factor in the path to decarbonisation, led by directives such as the EU’s Green Deal, which aims to make it the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. But, the highly fossil fuel dependent markets has reduced the ability to offer innovation and improvements despite the need for such change. Currently, we the people will make more difference than certain business models.
There are as few as seven years remaining until we use up the world’s remaining carbon budget if we wish to maintain temperatures at the more ambitious end of the spectrum envisioned by the Paris Agreement, curtailing global warming to 1.5°C this century.
The challenges of achieving net zero will have to be met head-on to effect change. With emission levels continuing to rise there is only limited time available to address the risks of climate change. This move towards greater sustainability than ever will, however, lead to tech advances, improved efficiency in business processes and build out a more sustainable business opportunity.