What does Decarbonisation mean?

Greenhouse gas emissions produced by people and the resulting global temperature increase are a key cause of climate change. Through decarbonisation – the switch from fossil fuels to carbon-free and renewable energy sources – states and companies worldwide want to reduce and avoid CO2 emissions. However, current global climate targets are still not ambitious enough to effectively stem climate change.

“Decarbonisation” means switching from the use of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas or oil to carbon-free and renewable energy sources as quickly as possible. Particularly in energy-intensive sectors such as mobility or energy and heat generation, it is essential to cut down on or avoid greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) so as to stem the advance of climate change.

Since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 if not before, numerous states and companies worldwide have committed themselves to decarbonisation. They have to take short- and long-term sustainability measures to minimise greenhouse gas emissions considerably by 2030 and to become climate neutral by 2040 or 2050 at the latest.


Why is Decarbonisation Important?

Through the burning of fossil energy sources, greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere, strengthening the greenhouse effect. This is a key driver behind global warming and, consequently, climate change: should the average global temperature increase by more than the targeted 1.5°C in comparison with pre-industrial times, the world’s climate would change irreversibly, which would have devastating consequences.


What is the Situation with Respect to Decarbonisation Globally?

In 2015, by signing the Paris Climate Agreement, a large part of the global community set itself the goal of limiting the global temperature increase by 2100 to 1.5°C if possible in comparison with pre-industrial times. This is to be realised primarily through short- and long-term sustainability measures aiming at decarbonisation by 2050 at the latest. However, the current climate targets and emission values of individual states demonstrate that present-day promises and endeavours are still not enough to meet this elementary objective.

As things stand, in 2030 the volume of greenhouse gases emitted worldwide would be twice as much as would be allowed for the 1.5°C target. This would mean a global temperature increase of 2.4°C by 2100, with optimistic calculations assuming a temperature increase of around 2.1°C or 1.8°C by 2100 (see chart). Although many states set out ambitious climate targets at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow and jointly spoke out in favour of the gradual reduction of coal power, these current efforts fall a long way short of being enough to effectively stem climate change.


How can Decarbonisation be Driven Forward?

Greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced as soon as possible if the global community wishes to achieve the required climate goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Through ambitious climate objectives and effective sustainability measures, politics, business and society have to jointly drive forward and pursue an energy transition – to enable the use of fossil fuels to be avoided in future where possible. The bottom line is that it is essential to reduce the carbon footprint of states, businesses and people and, simultaneously, to promote CO2-free and renewable technologies and energy sources. For companies, there are various options for determining and effectively lowering their own carbon footprint through comprehensive sustainability strategies and so for actively driving the decarbonisation of the economy.

Climate: In brief (admin.ch)
Tief greifende Dekarbonisierung: Der Weg in eine kohlenstoffarme Ära (admin.ch)
Glasgow’s 2030 credibility gap: net zero’s lip service to climate action | Climate Action Tracker
Temperatures | Climate Action Tracker



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