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Environmental transition: is it possible to reduce your ecological footprint?

Environmental transition - Sustainable solutions

Carbon neutrality: how do we get there by 2050?

Global warming is now an undeniable reality. Emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), continue to rise and reach a record level in 2022. To limit global warming to +1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement, these emissions must be drastically and rapidly reduced. The aim is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, i.e. a balance between CO2 emissions and their absorption. But how can this be achieved in practical terms? Here’s an overview of the solutions.

What are the climate challenges for the environmental transition?

First of all, it’s worth briefly recalling the context in which we find ourselves. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) estimates that if we are to have any chance of keeping global warming below +1.5°C, we will need to reduce global CO2 emissions by 45% from 2030 compared with 2010 and become carbon neutral by 2050.

However, in 2022, emissions reached a new record after the post-Covid rebound! Without rapid and radical action, the IPCC’s forecasts are alarming: warming of between +2°C and +4°C by 2100. 

The potentially catastrophic consequences are numerous:

  • Rising sea levels and the risk of flooding
  • More frequent heatwaves and droughts
  • Lower agricultural yields
  • Accelerated extinction of animal and plant species


The stakes are therefore vital for humanity. How can we rapidly reverse the trend and cap emissions, or even reduce them to zero? That’s what carbon neutrality and environmental transition are all about.

In concrete terms, the overall aim of the environmental transition is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by a factor of 6 by 2050, compared with 1990 levels.

In France, the National Low Carbon Strategy (SNBC) sets ambitious targets:

  • -40% lower emissions by 2030 compared with 1990
  • -50% by 2035
  • Carbon neutrality (~0 net emissions) by 2050


These targets have even been included in the 2019 Energy-Climate Act. They imply a drastic reduction in our emissions in all sectors: transport, housing, industry, agriculture, and energy. Major changes are therefore in store for our lifestyles!

What technological solutions can we envisage for the environmental transition?

Fortunately, we are not going into the fight against global warming unarmed. Many technological solutions already exist or are being developed to decarbonize our economy:

In energy

  • Massive development of renewable energies (solar, wind, sustainable biomass) to replace fossil fuels with high emissions (coal, oil)
  • Improving the energy efficiency of buildings, industrial processes, and means of transport
  • Deploy CO2 capture and storage technologies for activities that are difficult to decarbonize (steel industry, cement works, etc.).


In industry

  • Implementing more energy-efficient industrial processes
  • Recycling and reusing more raw materials to limit the extraction of high-carbon virgin resources
  • Use low-carbon construction materials such as wood and carbon-free concrete.


In transport

  • Accelerate the switch to electric vehicles and low-carbon hydrogen
  • Make greater use of sustainable biofuels
  • Encourage soft mobility (walking, cycling) in towns and cities through appropriate facilities
  • Develop public transport and shared mobility


In agriculture

  • Widespread use of agroecology, agroforestry, and precision farming, which use fewer inputs
  • Improving animal feed to reduce methane emissions from ruminants
  • Storing carbon in the soil through appropriate farming practices


Numerous reports, such as Afterres2050, show that it is possible to achieve carbon neutrality in France by these dates by combining energy sobriety and efficiency, electrification of uses, and complete decarbonisation of the electricity mix. But this implies major changes in our lifestyles.

What changes in consumption patterns are needed to make the ecological transition?

Technology alone will not suffice. We will also have to make fundamental changes to our consumption habits to reduce our need for energy, raw materials and emissions.

At an individual level, for example, we need to :

  • Reducing food waste and adopting a more plant-based diet
  • Making greater use of public transport and soft mobility
  • Choosing more compact and better-insulated housing
  • Reducing the consumption of manufactured goods, maintaining them better, and recycling them to extend their lifespan
  • Moderate heating and air conditioning to limit energy consumption


Companies will also have to evolve to internalize the climate costs of their activities:

  • Generalizing the eco-design of products to reduce their carbon footprint over their entire life cycle
  • Adopt carbon accounting and factor it into investment and management decisions
  • Strengthening the circular economy, from re-use to waste recovery


Changes in lifestyles and consumption patterns will be crucial if we are to achieve carbon neutrality and make the environmental transition. This will require far-reaching changes in individual and collective behaviour.

What is the role of public policy in accelerating the ecological transition?

This far-reaching ecological transition requires strong leadership and support from public authorities at all levels: international, European, national, and local.

Several tools are available:

  • Environmental regulation, to ban the most carbon-intensive technologies and impose carbon efficiency standards.
  • Ecological taxation, to raise the cost of carbon-based energies and make low-carbon solutions more competitive
  • Subsidies and financial incentives to support players in their transition
  • Ecological planning, to set binding targets for public and private players
  • Information and awareness-raising for citizens and businesses
  • Support for R&D in green technologies and the deployment of innovations

 

Public authorities therefore have a major role to play in creating a regulatory and economic framework that encourages the emergence of a low-carbon society. It’s time to work together to build a sustainable future.

Mathilde
Social Media & Public Relations Manager
Mathilde
Social Media & Public Relations Manager

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