Is There Hope for Net-Zero?
In the race to net-zero, everything counts. The good news in 2022 is that we have an abundance of solutions in culture, policy and markets, the three key areas of social innovation. The bad news is that the “will and skill” isn’t keeping pace. It’s a green revolution and it’s time for everyone to join the party. To prove it, we’re rounding up some of the key advancements in the biggest sectors to show there is hope for net-zero.
Transport Turns to Batteries and Clean Hydrogen
The transportation sector makes up roughly 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it has been slow to decarbonise. There have been few solutions surrounding air travel, with aviation making up around 2.4% of global CO2 emissions. Long-haul flights contribute to most emissions, and the electrification of aircrafts for short-haul flights has begun. With the global flight shame movement hitting airline’s bottom line, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have already committed 100% electric flight as soon as 2030.
Rail is picking up the passengers airlines are losing, and new train manufacturers are expected to welcome the potential for using hydrogen for trains where electrification is impractical, along with ships and planes converting to new blue and green hydrogen alternatives.
Alternatives to fossil-fuel run vehicles are being introduced at a rapid rate with the rise in affordability of electric cars. Electric vehicles are becoming steadily cheaper to run with lithium battery costs falling by 98% over three decades coupled with tax brackets allowing a push in the rollout of these vehicles. Cars powered by renewable electricity now offer the biggest savings over diesel in Norway at a 27% difference. Car manufacturer Volvo is also looking towards more renewable alternatives in manufacturing as it aims to replace coal with hydrogen for the steel used in its vehicles.
Bikes and scooters have grown rapidly in popularity across the globe and many cities now offer e-bike options. Studies show that e-bikes replace more and longer car trips than regular bikes do, reducing more fossil fuel use than a regular bike.
Building Buildings Better
The building environment is one of the world’s biggest polluters contributing to a massive 40% of global carbon emissions. Over the past two decades, ‘in use’ buildings, carbon footprint has been greatly reduced by implementing energy-saving technologies such as triple-glazing, better insulation, and on-site renewables, including solar panels and ground sourced heat pumps.
Norway alone has installed 600 heat pumps for every 1,000 households through a mix of grants and high electricity prices. As national energy grids continue to decarbonise, the focus has been shifted to reducing the “embodied energy” of materials that contribute to three-quarters of total building emissions. This energy includes use for material extraction, refining, processing, transporting, and fabricating.
Some alternative solutions include switching out steel or concrete materials for timber alternatives, and in Sweden you can find the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper. A push for refurbishment and reuse of established buildings has also cut emissions considerably with the realization that there are more sustainable buildings in existence, and the process of renewal contributes to a much lower energy emission than total reconstruction.
Finance Understands Climate Change is an Existential Business Problem
Businesses are seeing the benefits of opting for greener alternatives across the globe with the world’s biggest investor BlackRock making environmental sustainability a core goal for the company stating that ‘Failure to tackle climate change is simply bad for business it also announced in 2021 an initial financial close of $673 million for its $1 billion Climate Finance Partnership Fund (CFP) at COP26.
The mega asset manager calculated that if nothing is done to stop the climate crisis, 58% of the US will suffer economic decline by 2060-2080. Other large global businesses are following in their promise of creating more environmentally sustainable business models, with Amazon aiming to be net-zero carbon by 2040 and powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025. Facebook has also aimed to target net-zero emissions for its entire supply chain by 2030. While Apple, the world’s third-largest maker of mobile phones, has committed to becoming carbon neutral across its whole supply chain by 2030.
Crypto Moves to Less-Intensive “Proof of Work”
Technology companies exist mostly in virtual worlds so emissions stemming from technology companies account for just 0.3% of global carbon emissions, but a big source of that is the emerging cryptocurrency market. Bitcoin mining is at the bulk of the carbon issue, with computers programmed to solve the algorithms through an extensive and deeply energy-intensive process. The introduction of new mining methods has helped drastically by reducing the carbon footprint 99%. In addition, newer cryptocurrencies are conscious of their output and have become either carbon-neutral or low-energy consumers.
Deforestation is Devastating, COP26’s New Commitments are Key
When large areas of trees and natural vegetation are cleared, it causes a decrease in oxygen output and an increase in carbon dioxide, causing a negative impact on the global climate. Global deforestation has not slowed throughout the pandemic, with the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the Brazilian Amazon seeing millions of hectares lost by land clearing.
More than 100 world leaders have promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, in the COP26 climate summit’s first major deal. The countries who have signed the pledge – including Canada, Brazil, Russia, China, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the US and the UK – cover around 85% of the world’s forests; and there is no hope for net-zero without forests.
Food and Farming
The global livestock industry plays a significant role in contributing approximately 14% of annual greenhouse emissions. New Zealand has stepped forward and created a legal commitment to reduce methane emissions from agriculture by 10% by 2030. Denmark has also passed a legally binding target to reduce climate emissions from the agriculture sector by 55% by 2030. While there has been an increase in global meat production, there has also been a shift toward fish and poultry consumption, contributing to a much lower emissions footprint than red meat. Lower-carbon products have also been developed by using plant-based proteins of soy and pea along with lab grown meat alternatives.
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