We’ve all read the stories; 2020 was the warmest year on record, the Atlantic saw a record breaking Hurricane season, wildfires burned at rates not seen before turning cities into mars-like hellscapes, the adverse effects of climate change are fully showing. Leaders around the world are beginning to realise that action must be taken to prevent a man made global catastrophe of the likes never seen before. First steps are being taken to finally address the issues, but is it too little too late?
With the Paris Climate Accord publishing a worldwide goal of a net zero future by 2050, governments have begun to take action to tackle the climate crisis. Numerous countries around the world, some of which are massive carbon emitters, have signed into law plans to become carbon free nations by this given 2050 deadline, but will this be enough?
Some European environmentalists have been suggesting that 2040 would be a more appropriate deadline while others think 2050 is too ambitious and don’t expect net-zero globally until 2070. Countries like Iceland and Austria have pledged to be net zero by 2040 while Finland has taken an extra step and plans to achieve net zero by 2035. Bhutan is the only outlier having already surpassed net-zero and has achieved a negative carbon output. They take in more carbon from the atmosphere then they produce. But for most countries around the rest of the world, why will it take 30 years to reach these goals?
In short, the reason behind a target year of 2050 is that hitting the target would keep global warming below 1.5 degrees which would limit the amount of climate change related damage done around the world. If net zero is achieved by 2070 the planet will see no more than a 2 degree change. While this number seems insignificant, this global temperature increase would see a larger increase of coastal flooding, beach erosion, destruction of ecosystems and decrease in food security due to rising sea levels. All of these global climate changes will have devastating impacts on cities and communities worldwide. This will all lead to a chain reaction that will eventually affect economies worldwide as well, a lack of sustainability will lead to a decrease in profits, no matter what sector you’re in. Climate change will negatively affect your business in some way, and it’s important that your business is ready to fight back.
Major emitters such as the United States and China must lead by example. The largest emitters around the world, which are mostly highly developed countries, must be the first to drastically cut emissions through easier channels like investing in renewable energy. Countries like these two can economically afford the initial higher costs. Once net zero is achieved, increase in carbon removal technologies will see a steady natural decrease in temperature related to carbon emissions as an increase in carbon dioxide is directly linked to an increase in global temperature.
Not all industries are created equally when it comes to carbon output. Industries like aviation and agriculture will most likely fail to achieve net zero, as the range of technology to reduce their impact is limited. Therefore, other industries where using renewables is easier must have a negative carbon impact to balance. Transforming into a net zero world overnight isn’t possible; it will require a gradual reduction in various sectors to achieve this. Certain sectors can and cannot be decarbonised and not every country’s ability to achieve net zero is equal.
Energy that comes and goes with weather like wind and solar must be backed up with other biofuels or nuclear power. Sophisticated electrical grid systems like giant battery plants to store renewable electricity are required, although current technology is not at the scale required to make this feasible. Harder sectors to decarbonise include shipping and industrial processes. Steps can be taken in each industry to reduce carbon, but sometimes only to an extent due to current technology.
As more and more countries take initiative and commit to a net zero future, your company can easily get ahead of imminent rules, regulations and taxations. Countries may take a haphazard approach of simply trying to tax their way to net zero emissions, and although this will be successful to a degree, it’s not as effective as a collaborative effort between corporations and governments working together towards a common goal. In addition to taxing, countries must invest in technology to store renewable energy and to decrease carbon in more challenging industries.
Speed is the key and the global timeline towards net zero can be sped up if corporations take action now. Beginning with small but effective steps like switching to LED lighting or investing in solar can set your company or corporation on the right path, saving money and reducing carbon emissions. Technology to make sustainability easier will become more available as we move closer towards 2050. However, even with a high current investment cost, the sooner the better for your company, your country and your world when you invest in sustainability and buy into a net zero future. The choice of when to act is yours.
Is your company ready to play its part in reaching Net Zero? Get in touch.