Net-zero carbon emissions is possible by mid-century: Report

21 November 2018 | Mitigation

Reaching net-zero carbon emissions from heavy industry and heavy-duty transport sectors is technically and financially possible by 2060 and even earlier in developed economies, according to a report by the Energy Transitions Commission. 

The report added that this could cost less than 0.5 per cent of global GDP.

The report outlines the possible routes to fully decarbonize cement, steel, plastics, trucking, shipping and aviation – which together represent 30 per cent of energy emissions today -- and could increase to 60 per cent by mid-century as other sectors lower their emissions.

The “Mission Possible” report was developed with contributions from over 200 industry experts over a six month consultation process. Its findings show that full decarbonization is technically feasible with technologies that already exist, although several still need to reach commercial readiness. 

The report also shows that this would have only a minor impact on the cost of end consumer products. For example, green steel use would add approximately $180 on the price of a car, green shipping would add less than one per cent to the price of an imported pair of jeans, and low-carbon plastics would add one US cent on the price of a bottle of soda.

In India, the decarbonization of heavy industry and heavy-duty transport is crucial, not only to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere but also to improve air quality and enhance the quality of life and health of Indian citizens. 

In heavy-duty transport, electric trucks and buses (either battery or hydrogen fuel cells) are likely to become cost-competitive by 2030, while, in shipping and aviation, liquid fuels are likely to remain the preferred option for long distances but can be made zero carbon by using bio or synthetic fuels. Improved energy efficiency, greater logistics efficiency and some level of modal shift for both freight and passenger transport could reduce the size of the transition challenge.

In industry, more efficient use of materials and greatly increased recycling and reuse within a more circular economy could reduce primary production and emissions by as much as 40 per cent globally – and more in developed economies – with the greatest opportunities in plastics and metals. Reaching full decarbonization would require a portfolio of decarbonization technologies, and the optimal route to net-zero carbon will vary across location depending on local resources.

Direct and indirect electrification (through hydrogen) will likely play a significant role in most sectors of industry and transport, leading to a sharp increase in power demand – growing four to six times from today’s 20,000 Terawatt-hour (TWh) to reach about 100,000 TWh by mid-century.

Hydrogen use will increase dramatically, 7-11 times by mid-century, with two routes to zero-carbon hydrogen: Electrolysis, which will likely dominate in the long-term, and steam methane reforming plus carbon capture and storage.

Bioenergy and bio-feedstock will be required in several sectors, but will need to be tightly regulated to avoid adverse environmental impact, and its use should be focused on priority sectors where alternatives are least available or more costly, such as aviation and plastics feedstocks.

The “Mission Possible” report concludes that the most challenging sectors to decarbonize are plastics, due to end-of-life emissions, cement, process emissions, and shipping because of the high cost of decarbonization and the fragmented structure of the industry.



Source: Economic Times