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The World Can Reach Carbon Neutrality by 2035, Way Before We Once Thought

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Feb 12, 2021

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

US President Joe Biden and other world leaders have proposed mass-scale carbon neutrality by 2050. As it turns out, we may be able to get there far sooner. A new report from a scientific study group called The Global 100% Renewable Energy Strategy Group notes that the world can reach this mark by 2030 in the energy sector and by 2035 across the economy at large. Along the way, millions of jobs will be created.

The reason for all this is consistent with many recent findings on the sustainability front, both scientific and economic. It’s because renewable energy is cheaper to produce and deploy than fossil-fuel energy and will become ever more so, and increased pressure from science, governments, citizens, and industry will continue to move the net-zero point forward.

“The conclusion is clear: A global energy system powered by 100 percent clean renewable energy is not just possible over the next 10-15 years, it can also save money, create jobs and wealth, save lives, and get humanity ahead of the curve to prevent runaway climate change,” said Tony Seba of RethinkX, a technology think tank that participated in the study. “It is economically, socially, geopolitically and environmentally irrational for us to kick the can down the road to 2050.”

This is incredible news for travelers — and for everyone. Air travel is responsible for 2.5 percent of global emissions, with 28.2 percent of total 2018 emissions in the US coming from the transportation sector as a whole, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The hotel industry accounts for one percent, with food production including restaurant service accounting for more than 25 percent. Granted, not all of that is directly tied to travel, but all-told travel leaves a massive footprint on the planet. Let’s break down how we can cut into that number and reduce travel’s emissions.

“With low-cost renewable energy based electricity in place in 2030 a parallel rapid transition and re-design of the national energy systems will be feasible, using a smart energy system approach combining electricity with energy efficient buildings, district heating, electrified transport and industry, as well as energy storage,” said Professor Brian Vad Mathiesen of Aalborg University in Denmark, one of the researchers on the project, in a press release.

This is consistent with reducing the emissions from heating our hotels, restaurants, and other buildings and businesses frequented by travelers. With increased production and deployment of solar and wind power, the spaces where we stay at home and on the road will see their overall emissions drop, without the average traveler needing to change their routine much, if at all.

One development that we really need to show positive progress from this report is a signal from major US oil companies that they’re open to drastically increasing their investment in renewable power. Two top UK oil companies, BP and Total, are doing so, having won bids to develop billions of dollars worth of offshore wind farms, the New York Times reported this week, but major US players have yet to announce they have seen the light.

It’s high time they open their eyes.

Now, for how we get around while traveling. As Matador reported last week, the American auto sector is embracing the future, furthered by an announcement this week from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, representing 99 percent of vehicles sold in the United States, that its members are committed to spending $250 billion by 2023 on vehicle electrification and in working towards a federal standard for automakers.

“The US auto industry is aligned with the Biden Administration’s goals to achieve net-zero carbon transportation and an accelerated shift to electric-drive vehicles,” the report says.

Even the aviation sector is coming around, embracing biofuels and other technologies that can reduce the emissions of air travel. Add in vast and growing commitments to sustainability from across the travel sector — from hotels to destination and marketing organizations to governments — and the eyes of travelers in the US now shift to the players that fuel it all. Here’s looking at you, ExxonMobil and Chevron.

More climate wins

China added more than 500 species to its wildlife protection list, Reuters reported this week. The move signals a stark shift in China’s approach to protecting wildlife and hints at a possible crackdown on illegal wildlife-harvesting activities. Over 900 threatened animals are now protected in China, and the Chinese government is ramping up enforcement of its policies in this area.

Coca-Cola is now selling its namesake product in recycled plastic bottles in the United States, according to a report from Al Jazeera. The move looks to curb the company’s plastic use by 20 percent. The 13.2-ounce and 20-ounce bottles are now made with recycled plastic, and the company continues to work towards its goal of 100 percent recyclable plastic by 2025.

We close this week with an inspiring story of a company that is reimagining old trucks. Zero Labs Automotive, an LA-based startup, converts old trucks into electric-powered trucks and refurbishes them to be useful while retaining their classic charm. “The future is electric. And now, so is the past,” founder Adam Roe told Mel.

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