In December 2015, 55 countries accounting for 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions formally agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius this century. Achieving this will require global greenhouse gas emissions to reach net zero by 2050.
Getting to net zero means we can still produce some emissions as long as they are offset by processes that reduce greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.
Immediate action is required…
This will require significant amounts of new investment. A report by the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) estimates a cost of $1–2 trillion per year – equivalent to 1–1.5% of global GDP. The investment is critical. According to Stanford University, global warming has cost the United States and the European Union at least $4 trillion in lost output since 2000.
One of the first tasks of the new Biden administration is to re-join the Paris Agreement. There are also intentions for US electricity production to be carbon free by 2035.
China’s share of global CO2 emissions rising rapidly
Getting to net zero will require $1–2 trillion in new investment per year.
At roughly 27% of global CO2 emissions, China’s commitment to net zero by 2060 could possibly be the biggest boost to tackling climate change to date. Currently renewables make up just 15% of energy consumption whilst coal, widely agreed as the highest polluting of all fossil fuels, still makes up 60%. The European Union has set a goal of reducing emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030 and aims to be the first carbon neutral continent by 2050.
Governments tackling the transport sector
The UK’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution includes steps such as banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Japan has committed to the same goal by 2035. So far, 23 countries have announced plans to ban fossil fuel vehicle sales. Norway’s ban comes into force from 2025.
The impact on oil demand will be substantial with some analysts estimating demand to fall from 100 million barrels per day in 2019 to around 10 million by mid-century.
Corporations are joining the fight. Microsoft recently announced its ambitions to be carbon negative by 2030 and by 2050 the company will remove from the environment all the carbon it has emitted since it was founded in 1975. Consumer goods giants Nestle and Unilever will follow others who have begun labelling their products’ carbon footprint. BP has pledged to be net zero emissions by 2050 and recently purchased stakes in US offshore wind farms. Other oil majors are investing in start-ups working on innovative carbon capture techniques.
Electricity and heat produce most emissions, followed by transport
Experts count over 1,900 pieces of climate legislation around the world, almost two-thirds were enacted in the past ten years.
Negative Emissions technology can slow climate change
Direct Air Capture is the process of sucking CO2 directly out of the atmosphere and burying it underground. This is seen as a natural complement to the land availability problems for afforestation and reforestation.
Australia, along with Japan, are at the forefront with recent announcements on the first liquid hydrogen transport ship. Airbus has recently announced plans for hydrogen powered passenger planes.
Experts believe hydrogen could become an $11 trillion industry by 2050.