Decarbonisation

Decarbonisation definition

Decarbonisation refers to the shift away from carbon and the reduction of carbon emissions, especially in the energy industry, and the simultaneous shift towards a post-fossil fuel, carbon-free economy. 

In the decarbonisation process, fossil fuels are replaced by carbon-free, renewable energy sources to reduce or even completely avoid greenhouse gas emissions. Decarbonisation will transform our energy supply.

Why is decarbonisation important? 

When fossil fuels are used and burned, greenhouse gases like CO2 are released into our atmosphere. This exacerbates the greenhouse effect and our climate heats up further. If temperatures rise beyond the 1.5°C threshold to which we have been striving to limit global warming, the climate will change irreversibly. If that happens, it will no longer be possible to stop the cascading effects of climate change and its impacts. As such, a decarbonisation strategy is an important aspect of taking action against global warming.

That is why the international community committed to significantly minimise global carbon emissions by 2050 in the Paris Agreement of 2015. The countries and companies are to become net zero by then.

The decarbonisation of the economy – where does the greatest reduction potential lie?

Decarbonisation is a crucial way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Industries mainly use fossil raw materials such as oil, natural gas, and coal as energy sources. There is immense potential for emission reductions here. 

There are many decarbonisation opportunities in the industry, construction, and transport sectors.  

1. Industry: Two-thirds of all industrial emissions are caused by energy consumption. The majority can be avoided by simply adapting processes and using renewable energy and low-carbon technology. At the same time, there will always be residual emissions. These can be compensated through carbon offset projects

2. Buildings: As old buildings have a negative carbon footprint, they are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. There are three key ways to avoid or reduce emissions from buildings. 

  • Building energy renovation 
  • Convert heating systems to heat pumps, solar thermal collectors, or sustainable local and district heating 
  • Replace other fossil-fuel-based heating systems with synthetic fuels 

3. Transport: Transport is also responsible for a large proportion of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions can be reduced significantly by reducing the amount of traffic, travelling shorter distances, adhering to emission limits, and changing engines and fuels.  

The following measures can also serve to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport:

  • Reduce passenger traffic
  • Promote sustainable means of transport 
  • Reduce freight traffic 
  • Expand e-mobility 
  • Convert other internal combustion engines  

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