Looking at the big picture

The transition to climate neutrality is our common global goal. We need to start now to be in time and to avoid as much loss and damage on our way as possible. Our climate is already changing dramatically but heatwaves, floods and droughts are only a first glimpse of what might come in the future if we do not limit global warming to well below 1.5 °C.

Many claims have been made by leaders around the globe to achieve climate or at least CO2-neutrality by 2060 lately. But looking at these claims with a clear eye shows that substantially there is yet no real path how to get there. Except, maybe, for the United States of America as president Joe Biden has declared to build a 100% regenerative energy system by 2035.

Enabling clean energy as soon as possible is a crucial prerequisite to meet climate targets. The whole energy sector, comprising energy use in industry, buildings and transport, is currently responsible for about 73% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Decarbonization

Decarbonizing our energy and establishing 100% renewable energy on a global scale is a tremendous challenge. Yet, we need to realize this transformation within the next fifteen to twenty years lately to stay within 1.5 °C. The good thing is: this is possible and might even come sooner as we expect. The knowledge is given, the technologies are available and the benefits even for our generation would be enormous in terms of social, health, economic and democratic benefits. Let alone the benefits for future generations. At this moment of time, the only thing that is truly missing to unleash a green revolution is political will.

How deeply the old fossil fuel system is still established around the world becomes obvious when looking at the recently published 2020 UNEP Production Gap Report. Even though a broad and immediate electrification across all sectors is unavoidable to protect our climate and thus our common livelihood, countries worldwide plan and project to increase fossil fuel production at an average annual rate of 2% but would need to decrease this rate by roughly 6% each year to stay within a path consistent to 1.5 °C. A prominent example for such a misleading und simply false investment is the german-russian natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2.

The fatal discrepancy between what is urgently needed and what is actually done needs to be solved as soon as possible because otherwise large investments will be stranded and, far worse, global warming will hit new records and thereby increase the risk to cross dangerous and irreversible climate tipping-points even further.

Cities account for more than 70% of global GHG emissions and consume 78% of primary energy. Realizing the transition thus requires Net Zero Carbon Cities by 2040 lately. As highlighted by the World Economic Forum, an integrated approach is necessary to decarbonize cities around the globe.

“First, most of our energy needs to be produced from renewable sources. Second, we need cars, public transport and heating to be powered by electricity. Third, we need a more efficient system. This involves making everything – from factories and homes to transport and consumer devices – more energy efficient and interconnected. Smart energy infrastructure is the fundamental interconnector of such an integrated, efficient system.”

Step by step

Cities need to become smart to become climate neutral. A smart energy infrastructure is necessary to plan and project efficient actions. It enables synergies within the system and an optimally coordinated decarbonization of the whole system step by step. It allows for the integration of all sectors and, depending on the consumer application, even allows for simulation of certain actions to find out, e.g. how much would GHG emissions decrease when a quarter or even a district of a city switches from a fossil fuel-based heating to a renewable heating source. This would make the efficiency gains transparent before even applying the action and thus could safe a lot of money.

“Looking at the big picture, we have everything we need but the political will.”