Translating 7.6% into Quantifiable Action – 4 GtCO2e or 30 GtCO2e or Both?

We are called to action to change our old ways and be better – be kind, be mindful, respect our planet, save our planet. We are in the middle of unprecedented times in health, inequality, and climate change. We need to do better, and we need to do more.

Finding the way to do better can be overwhelming. That is why Clima tries to translate “doing better” into a number so we can measure progress towards the collective goal of limiting a temperature rise of 1.5 degree Celsius by 2050.

In an interview with Clima, Barbara Buchner of CPI refers to a downward trend in total emissions at a rate of 7.6% per year required to meet the 1.5 degree Celsius goal. This percentage is the message of the UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report 2019. The report highlights the importance of action, and the impact of inaction. As per the UN Emissions Gap Report 2019, “today we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% every year… Every day we delay, the steeper and more difficult it becomes. By just 2025 the cut needed would be 15.5 % each year…”

The percentage is a good reference, but when we want to understand CO2 avoidance, we need a specific figure to measure our achievements against. Limiting our thinking to 7.6% per year could be a bit misleading. The consensus within the climate community is that the global emissions trend of 56 GtCO2e needs to be halved to ~23 GtCO2e by 2030. At a downward trend of 7.6 % per year, it suggests we need to reduce less and less every following year.

As we show in the table below, 7.6% of 56 GtCO2e equals 4.26 GtCO2e in year 1 (i.e. 2021). The reduction for 2022 is estimated as 7.6% of the new global emissions number of 51 GtCO2e, or 3.93 GtCO2e, and so on. It would be wrong to think that we only need to reduce less in each following year and forget to maintain the reductions from the year before. Therefore, we need to understand the collective impact of an annual 7.6% and measure our efforts against that number: 30 GtCO2e by 2030.

The graph below shows it in a different way: even though the downward trend means less reductions on an annual basis, we need to look both at the cumulative number and not only to the individual annual number. At iClima Earth we quantify CO2 avoidance that each company in our Index can generate on an annual basis. We look at the solutions also to assess those that are transient (like a plant based Beyond Meat burger, or a telepresence call on Zoom) and those that are based on products with long useful life (like a Siemens Gamesa wind turbine, or a Tesla EV car), with avoidance that can be present in the long term. Please join us and learn more about the companies that can bring the world to carbon neutrality!

Author: Rina Cerrato
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