Climate change is a reality and all industries have to make efforts to fight this situation. Although there are many alternatives, the focus should be on five main areas of action.
- Reforms in food production systems: Since more food will have to be produced in the next 50 years than in the last 500 years and this is not possible with traditional systems, new climate-smart and environmentally sustainable systems are needed -less water and land use, fewer fertilizers, pesticides and antibiotics-, a change in consumption for nutrition based on healthy and sustainable diets -less meat consumption and more vegetable protein-, circularity and resource efficiency of food systems -less food waste and comprehensive use of raw materials-.
- Electrify our lives: Given that approximately 15% of CO2 emissions come from land transport, maritime and other systems, it is necessary to develop policies and incentives to electrify land transport. By 2030, between 40-50% of vehicles should be electric, compared to the current 1%. Energy distribution logistics and improving the efficiency of electric motors will be key, as well as the energy mix in the home, which will have to change in favour of renewable energy sources in most cases.
- Redesigning industrial processes, promoting the circular economy, increasing process efficiency, incorporating new technologies and optimizing processes to reduce current emissions by a third. The circular economy, which is not the recycling economy, offers important opportunities to improve the life cycle of raw materials, save resources, reduce emissions and develop new technologies and jobs. It involves working from the eco-design of products while minimizing the generation of waste.
- With the decarbonization of fuels, even today two-thirds of the world’s energy power and 40% of CO2 emissions are generated using coal and natural gas. It is necessary to increase renewable energy sources and improve their efficiency. Coal-fired power must be reduced by 80% by 2030, and 8 times more solar panels and 5 times more wind turbines must be installed. In industrial sectors with high energy demand where electrification is not suitable option hydrogen and other alternative bioenergy fuel sources such as the bio-kerosene need to be developed.
- The scenario of a 1.5 ºC increase is unattainable without capturing, using and/or storing atmospheric CO2 and repairing the damage we have already done. Any scenario must also contemplate rapid reforestation and recovery of estuarine ecosystems to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and replace ecosystems destroyed by fires. By 2030, the world will need to increase the area covered by trees by at least 80 million hectares, almost twice the size of India, and must consider natural ecosystems, native trees, and water consumption.
Addressing these major challenges requires levers to facilitate their implementation, such as training, awareness-raising, and citizen participation; new regulations and policies and fiscal and economic incentives; and integrated consumption based on the value chain. Consumers must stop being passive buyers and become active, self-organized actors who shape markets and encourage the development of solutions based on their values and preferences.
All this will not be possible without science. From science, we do not have answers to all questions, but we do have the best evidence-based answers that society can count on to move forward optimistically and take advantage of the sea of opportunities before us.
Author: Rogelio Pozo, CEO of AZTI