There are various solutions to reduce carbon emissions. Here are four of them. (Spoiler alert: with no miracle, we will need all of them).
1 – Decarbonization:
Decarbonization is the process consisting of reducing the carbon footprint associated to any need or use of energy. We can shift from a highly polluting energy consumption towards a more neutral one through the decarbonization of our industries, our transport system and ultimately the products we use. It basically means producing energy from other sources than fossil fuels. This is partly where the term energetic transition comes from.
2 – Carbon capture:
The carbon capture is the phenomenon of capturing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stocking it. Carbon sinks, such as forests (vegetation in general) and oceans do it naturally. However, their capacity being largely exploited and lately depleted, we need to actively participate to earth’s efforts in fixing the problems we have created. Thankfully, some carbon capture technologies already exist.
- The DAC (Direct Air Capture) consists of stocking the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere deep in the underground under the form of rocks. Last September in Iceland, the Swiss company called Climeworks opened the largest carbon capture plant to date. This plant will be capable of capturing 4,000 tones of CO2 per year, equivalent to the emissions of 870 cars. Their main business model is to sell carbon offsets to companies willing to compensate their emissions. Another model is to sell the byproduct rocks as raw material, though this use has been source of controversy. Side note, according to IEA, in 2020, global carbon emissions cumulated at 31,5 billion tones. It is almost 8 million times more than what the largest DAC plant can capture today.
- Time for the Planet is a french “entreprise à mission” meaning a company with social and environmental goals set as part of its purpose. This enterprise collects funds to finance startups which offer solutions to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Among the first startups selected stands Carbon Impact. This time, it is through the power of waves that the technology accelerates the natural “carbon-silicate” cycle to stock the carbon particles into sediments. The entire process is natural and derives from renewable energy.
3 – Sobriety:
Here, we are talking about the way we consume. Not only in terms of quantities, but mostly in terms of what products and services we choose to consume. It is about bringing consciousness back into our habits. Getting back to why we purchase the goods we purchase. Is it because we have done so for a while, because a product is on sale, because we saw the commercial, because we want to be perceived a certain way? Or is it because we know exactly what true need it meets, what it is made of and where it comes from, what its functional value is?
A behavioural change is rarely made overnight. But a shift in consciousness can happen in a split second. Some tools can then help grow more awareness on what to seek and what to avoid. We Act for Good or WAG is a mobile application created by the WWF France for this very purpose. The application acts as an environmental coach giving tips and insights on how to shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Klima has a similar offer, with the possibility to invest in sustainability related projects.
Know that as of 2017 the average carbon emissions per year for a french person (far behind the US, China, Canada etc) was almost 11 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. At the Paris Agreement in 2015, the goal was set to decrease to 2 tonnes equivalent per inhabitant.
To know your personal carbon footprint, scroll down to sources section and click on the calculator matching your region/language. When thinking about purchasing something, try to think aout functional economy, circular economy and eco-conception.
4 – Energy efficiency:
Because we cannot deny energy’s necessity in today’s world all together and because sobriety has its limits, this is where energy efficiency comes into play. We can look at it from different lenses.
First, it is about getting the energy where we need it with as minimal losses as possible. We will look for the best ratio between primary energy, final energy and useful energy. In the case of a car, the primary energy would be oil, the final energy gasoline and the useful energy it the movement the combustion creates. During each transformation of the energy, there are losses and only a part of the initial energy is kept. However, some transformations have better ratios than others and less transformations along a process often means less losses.
Then it comes to the device efficiency and getting the most out of the energy provided. For instance, instead of incandescent light bulbs (for which only 12% of the energy delivered produces light, and 88% produces heat) we will prefer LED lights, whose ratio goes from 70% to 100%.
Finally, looking at the overall energy necessary to produce a good, from materials extraction to transportation, passing by its manufacturing, we should equally pay attention to its longevity and life cycle management. Let’s take the example of a highly energy-intensive product, such as a smartphone (see ecological rucksack). Considering its tremendous footprint, we expect the good to last in proportion. Not to dispose it every 2 years to get a new one, like the industry would like us to do. Let alone the need of having a professional and a personal one (back to 3 – Sobriety).
Now imagine that whether a piece is broken or the software doesn’t work properly anymore, you do not succumb to the latest one with the nice feature. Imagine updating it, and only buying the defective pieces to fix it. That is FairPhone’s promise for example. It means that the ecological disaster necessary to produce it once, will at least not be needed twice. If it ultimately becomes unfixable after a decent period of use, and it can be dismantled and entirely recycled, then we can talk about a sustainable product.
2Carbon footprint calculator (USA) : The Nature Conservancy
4Carbon footprint calculator (Français) : Nos GEStes Climats