Reaching Net Zero StartsToday
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Reaching Net Zero StartsToday

Thomas Meth, Co-Founder and President, Enviva
Thomas Meth, Co-Founder and President, Enviva

Thomas Meth, Co-Founder and President, Enviva

Along with the UK, there are a number of nations as well as public and private sector organizations with ambitious net-zero commitments. However, even with recent notable progress, reaching netzero by 2050 will require massive decarbonization efforts across all sectors. In a business-as-usual scenario, total carbon emissions requiring abatement by 2050 are expected to be ~720MtCO2.

Looking ahead, there is no pathway to netzero that includes the continued use of coal or other fossil fuels in the power sector. The phasing-out of coal is the top priority for climate change mitigation, and progress made in this area is amain contributor to decreases in emissions.

Unfortunately, global industries were not inherently designed to be low-carbon. The current energy crisis, as a result of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, has exacerbated the use of fossil fuels, and therefore the road to decarbonization and net zero will necessitate more action than just eliminating plastics and recycling. The climate crisis requires mass collaboration and a radical rethink on how governments, NGOs, societies, and global businesses operate.

  ​Making a climate commitment won’t be easy. It will require a level of intellectual honesty followed by tangible action steps

   

For example, buildings, road transportation, and industry contribute significant emissions and are expected to reduce their impacts on climate as technologies improve, including the expanded use of electric vehicles. All sectors‒including the energy industry, built environment, transportation, aviation, and food systems‒need to rapidly decarbonize to achieve net-zero targets. Production of a wide range of liquid and gaseous fuels and industrial chemicals, which is largely derived from fossil fuels, is now technically possible via woody biomass conversion.

Leveraging biomass to its fullest capacity can be complicated, but the world is in dire need of all technically and commercially available solutions if we wish to seek change today. Greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potential from biomass-derived fuels and many types of industrial chemicals is substantial, and translates to significant market advantages over the long term as societal costs of carbon emissions become more broadly recognized. Continued and expanded investment in woody biomass research and development is needed to enable proven, emerging alternatives to fossil-based fuels, technologies, and materials to support a more circular economy. As seen in today’s current energy crisis, a diversified energy mix is needed, and sustainably sourced biomass is one of many ways to ensure a reliable, stable, and dispatchable energy grid today and well into the future.

Gone are the days of hoping the fossil fuel market will fix itself or the renewable energy debate is a far reach from reality. Sooner rather than later, all businesses will be required to make some form of a low-carbon adjustment to their operations, whether directly through production or indirectly through the supply chain. In this vein, it would prove beneficial in the long term for industrial leaders to acknowledge the science, embrace it, and commit to doing something different today.

However, it’s important to note, making a climate commitment won’t be easy. It will require a level of intellectual honesty followed by tangible action steps. Sustainability is not a singular achievement but a philosophy of improvement that applies to all aspects of a business. Accountability is essential to resolving the climate crisis and that includes welcoming input from all sets of stakeholders (i.e., investors, local communities, regional offices and facilities, environmental organizations, academics, and beyond). In addition to accountability, transparency is fundamental to all commitments. Companies that transparently communicate their progress in solidifying a net-zero future will be taken seriously and cast in a positive light for future generations.

If you haven’t made a net-zero commitment yet, there is no time like the present.

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