A new report shows how all sectors of the economy can halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
The Exponential Climate Action Roadmap published in September by a group of leading sustainability organisations provides a new bold plan to meet the Paris climate goals. The report shows how all sectors of the economy can halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 with the help of stronger policies, digital innovation and greater climate leadership.
Launched by Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UNFCCC, convener of Mission 2020 and sustainability researcher Johan Rockström, the report highlights how energy transitions can speed up rapidly if the price of renewables is low enough to out-compete fossil fuels, which makes for the first leverage point. Carbon emissions must peak in 2020 and start dropping quickly, if we want to keep to the maximum of 1.5°C warming goal set by the Paris agreement. The global capacity of solar and wind power is growing fast enough to provide over 50% of global electricity supply by 2030.
Owen Gaffney, co-author of the report from Future Earth, is optimistic about the future. “Right now, it is easier to imagine a global climate catastrophe than a rapid economic transformation, yet the next decade could see the fastest energy transition in history”, he said. ”In Norway, electric cars went from 6% of new sales to 47% in five years. If renewables keep doubling every five or six years, as they have for a decade or more, they will push out fossil fuels much faster than most forecasts.”
The digital revolution is the second key theme highlighted by the report and is considered a wild card for economic transformations,according to Johan Falk, another co-author of the report from Future Earth. Technological innovation can account for 30% of the emissions cuts required by 2030, which is potentially critical in deciding between a +1.5-2°C and +3°C world. It can also indirectly influence consumer habits through driving implementation of circular and sharing economies.
Still, technology alone won’t be sufficient. “The key is to reach a critical mass of companies, cities, nations, industries and citizens that are contributing to the Paris Agreement and show how attractive this is – this will create the snowball effect we need to scale solutions,” he notes.
An important role will also have to be played by the global tech giants, which are able to accelerate the adoption of Industry 4.0 achievements such as digitalisation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and the internet of things to achieve large-scale emission cuts. Thanks to technological innovation, many companies can also cut their own emissions faster than 50% every decade, setting higher standards for the industry and influencing citizen lifestyles through altering the ways they interact with technology.
According to Mikko Kosonen, co-author of the report and president of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, “[t]o win the fight against climate change, we need to constantly push beyond what conventional wisdom tells us is possible. The digital revolution is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. Now, to realize the full potential, we need leadership and action: by policy makers, business leaders and all of us.”
Overall, the report lists 30 critical solutions to achieve rapid acceleration of action over the period of the next 18 months. The roadmap is available online and may be used by companies, cities and states to align their efforts with the Paris goals. The launch of the report is very timely, as heatwaves and other extreme climate events are becoming increasingly severe and even IPCC officials struggle to find proper language to describe the ferocity of climate change in the upcoming years.
In this video, Johan Rockström, co-author of the report, explores the “Global Carbon Law” for decreasing emissions over the upcoming decades: