Let’s talk decarbonization today. The target set in the Paris Agreement of 2015 requires a remarkable 80-90% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.
We’ve been talking about reducing greenhouse gas emissions for quite some time now. But let’s back up a minute. What exactly is decarbonization? And more importantly, why should we all care? First, the term means the reduction of carbon, which to be completely honest, is easier said than done. Consider what might be required to decarbonize something like electricity. This would require switching to increase reliance on clean electricity and cleaner fuels to lower carbon emissions just in this one area.
To help understand the topic even more, back in 2015, there was huge support of the Paris Agreement, vowing to attempt to limit the planet’s warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F), attempting to go back to pre-industrial levels. Many nations were more than willing participants to improve the climate.
Today, however, some of these nations are discovering these targets are extremely ambitious. And while many were eager participants, actually achieving these has proven a lot harder, and many nations don’t want to have egg on their face. In fact, when it comes to moving the climate dial below the two degrees Celsius it requires not just transformational change, but a continual shift in thinking, a major shift from fossil fuels, and a commitment from all countries, something that is proving to be much harder to achieve. Frankly, achieving global participation just isn’t happening.
What is needed is big change both from consumers and from businesses. Big industry produces about one-quarter of global GDP and employment, but it also products 28% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to McKinsey. Decarbonizing industry will not be easy, especially among four sectors that contribute 45% of its carbon dioxide emissions: cement, steel, ammonia, and ethylene.
So, here’s how you can act. Below are four steps organizations and consumers can take to decarbonize right now, as outlined by Susan Uthayakumar, president of the sustainability business division at Schneider Electric. While this guide targets businesses, as I see it, we all can apply these ideas as consumers in our own homes and lives.
Step 1: Know What You Can Do
Uthayakumar suggests business needs to know the baseline and potential, which gives a guidance on goal setting and helps organizations make faster decisions including where and how to act. Schneider Electric offers a digital solution—EcoStruxure Resource Advisor—to collect and aggregate data.
While EcoStruxure is for businesses, let’s apply the same premise as consumers. Perhaps we need to set baselines and potential to give us the guidance on goal setting so we can make faster decisions and know exactly how to act in our homes. Having this data in hand can help us become more aware of the trends to be proactive, rather than reactive, about making goals and actually achieving them. How brilliant is that?
Step 2: Know What You Will Do
This is the step where you create targets—and make them known. Schneider Electric’s research shows making a public announcement encourages companies—and this applies to consumers as well—to set more ambitious goals, meet those goals faster, and boost confidence in success.
Schneider Electric has made its own decarbonization goal announcements, including carbon-neutral operations by 2025 and a net-zero supply chain by 2050. It has also helped companies like Clorox, PepsiCo, and Greif, Inc., do the same.
I like this as well. Once we announce our goals we are more likely to stick to them. We are committed and this is where the rubber meets the road for many of us.
Step 3: Start Your Plan
Here is when you put everything into action. This will require tracking apps, adding tech, and upgrades, just to name a few. Uthayakumar suggests that for organizations it requires a unique combination of data management, infrastructure upgrades, innovative technologies and digital solutions, including: energy management, resource optimization, low-carbon replacements, emissions balancing, and supply-chain neutrality.
All these efforts will lead to decarbonization, but also it may improve efficiency, resiliency, and the bottomline as well, ultimately resulting in greater benefits for all.
This is why we announced the Living Lab. We want consumers to be inspired by the effort and to see the action and to be encouraged to do better. In order to achieve what works for each and every homeowner, they need to set the target and optimize.
Step 4: Monitor and Adjust
The final step is to recognize that the process to decarbonization is not linear. We need to be constantly monitoring and adjusting. We need to identify what is working and what is not. We need to acknowledge who is helping and who is not.
Schneider Electric also suggests keeping the conversation going in this step with stakeholders and the supply chain. Make sure to always track your goals and adjust as needed.
As you will see by our efforts with the Living Lab. Decarbonization is not an end but a constant journey. We’d love to hear if you are starting it with us. Journeys are not easy, but they are certainly worth it and worth keeping track of all the experiences along the way.
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