Whether we achieve this goal depends on a number of political decisions, the actions of companies and us as consumers. What needs to happen to achieve the goal of "net zero" by 2050?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regularly reminds us that we must limit global warming to below 1.5 °C to avoid the most catastrophic effects of the climate crisis. To achieve this, we need to reach net zero emissions globally by 2050.
The path to net zero
Net zero means that Germany's emissions are reduced by 100 % compared to 1990 levels. Greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be avoided must be offset by removing the equivalent from the atmosphere. The target applies to all sectors, including aviation and shipping. We will look at the work that needs to be done in four areas to achieve net zero.
Transport is now one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 18% of German emissions. And not only that, transport emissions continue to rise. Germany needs to phase out conventional petrol and diesel vehicles, replace them with electric vehicles and significantly reduce private transport in the process.
Achieving "net zero" means reducing emissions from the power sector by 97 % compared to today's levels. This sounds ambitious, but it is feasible. The electricity sector is the easiest to decarbonise. This is because we already have widely available and affordable technologies, such as renewable energy generation. Germany should therefore focus on removing carbon from electricity generation as quickly as possible and then electrify the heating and transport sectors.
To achieve this, we will need more than twice as much electricity as today. We must not only think of renewable energy, but also decarbonise heating by moving away from natural gas and towards electricity-powered heating such as heat pumps, and improve energy efficiency in buildings.
The decarbonisation of heating is one of the biggest challenges on the way to net zero. Only 15% of heat in Germany currently comes from renewable sources. To achieve this goal, we need to electrify most of our heating. In addition, scientists have recognised that biogas and hydrogen have useful potential to meet the heat demand that electrification cannot. This is expected to require half of the total cost to reach net zero.
Remove carbon from the atmosphere
Net zero is only achievable if we can remove carbon from the atmosphere in addition to reducing the amount we produce. Emissions that cannot be eliminated must be offset by removing the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere. This is achieved by planting trees that absorb and store carbon, and by Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), the capture of carbon emissions from industrial processes and storing them in the ground. Both lead to negative emissions, and both remain important tools for achieving net zero.
The responsibility of the government
It is good and important that the government intends to reach the net zero target in 2050. But we need a government that is committed to all renewable technologies, sets concrete implementation measures and above all: adheres to them.
Together we can achieve the net zero target! What do you think about this? Do you think the 2050 target is realistic? Where do you think more can and must happen? Feel free to let us know here or write us on Instagram & Facebook what you think. We will publish several actions that you can personally do there, as well. We look forward to an exciting discussion.