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CO2 emissions represent three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy-related CO2 (combustion of fossil fuels) and industrial process emissions make up over 80% of CO2 emissions and the remainder comes from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF). To deliver Paris Agreement will require considerable efforts across all the sectors and particularly in key industry (iron and steel, chemicals and petrochemicals, cement and lime, and aluminium) and transport (road freight, shipping and aviation).
Renewables offer significant yet untapped potential. This is mostly due to limited options available for deep emissions reductions. Whilst industrial emission reductions options have been studied for decades, the deployment of low-carbon solutions has been limited to a few demonstration projects. There is however an increasing number of countries committed to tap into that potential. These countries are exploring the ways to leverage the power of renewables, supplementing it with other options and seeking what technological changes can enable it, which needs to be accompanied by economic, policy and regulatory changes.
Reaching zero emissions with renewables
Reaching zero emissions in key industry and transport sectors will require large deployment of renewables. This will be particularly challenging given limited viable options. However, renewables can play a central role for the decarbonisation process in these sectors and eventually reach zero carbon emissions by 2060.
Renewables in industry
Industry is responsible for over one-quarter of global energy-related CO2 emissions, and an additional 8% of global CO2 emissions come from industrial processes within industry. Four industrial sectors of iron and steel, aluminium, chemicals and petrochemicals, and cement and lime produce over 85% of industrial energy and process-related emissions and account for over two-thirds of all industrial energy use. To reduce CO2 emissions at scale in these industrial sectors, only few economically viable solutions currently exist.
Renewables in transport
Transport plays a vital role in the world’s economy by facilitating the movement of people and global trade. Yet, it comes at a cost, as it is a major source of emissions given its current heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Whilst it represents a third of global energy demand, it is also the sector with the lowest level of renewable energy use but with the largest potential. There are some preferable renewable options for some but not all transport modes. Whilst electrification with renewables is a viable option for rail and light-duty road transport (cars, SUVs, small trucks), for road freight, aviation and shipping, the optimal pathway has yet to become clear.
The traditional economy has followed a linear pattern of ‘take-make-waste’ with negative impacts both the economy and the environment. The circular economy on the other hand offers systemic and cost-effective approach to the economy and the environment and includes recycling, reuse, materials substitution, a more efficient materials design and the use of sustainable biomass resources. The circular economy will not by itself get emissions to zero, but it is an essential starting point that will help with the scale and affordability of the other options
09 September 2020 | Articles