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March 6, 2018

What is decarbonization and why do we need it?

Electric cars & charging, EV market & trends

The Paris Agreement was made to slow down climate change. Unfortunately the current pledges are not enough and the target is slipping through our fingers. In order to keep global warming in check, our only chance is deep decarbonization. But what does that mean in practice?

What is decarbonization?

Decarbonization refers to the reduction or elimination of carbon dioxide from energy sources. According to the World Economic Forum, full decarbonization of our energy systems is the only solution to climate stabilization. In practice, getting to zero net emissions requires switching to clean energy sources and shifting from fossil fuels to electricity.

The current situation

The Paris Agreement, ratified by 174 countries, aims to hold global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. It doesn't sound like much, right?

In comparison, the last time the global average temperature was 2 °C higher, sea level was over 6 meters higher than today. Global warming caused by human actions happens in manifold speed, thus there is not nearly enough time to adapt. Rising temperatures have an impact on weather phenomenon, food production, sprawling of diseases, economy and living conditions all over the world – to mention some.

International Panel of Climate Change has created scenarios for CO2 emission development. From these scenarios, RCP2.6 is the only one where Paris Agreement goals are reached: following this path means getting net CO2 emissions to zero or below zero near after 2050. Yet, the opportunity to follow RCP2.6 is almost gone: currently we are on a track to 3 °C average warming.

3 °C higher global average temperatures would sink Miami, Shanghai, Osaka and Rio de Janeiro. Altogether 275 million people worldwide live in cities that would flood.

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Picture: IPCC's Representative concentration pathways (RCP) presenting four scenarios for net CO2 emissions.

In order to limit global warming to 2 °C or lower, our only chance is deep decarbonization.

What does deep decarbonization look like in practice?

The goal of decarbonization is to replace fossil fuel reliant systems with electricity produced with low-carbon resources, such as renewables. Basically, electrifying everything with zero-carbon power. Electrification will also increase energy efficiency significantly.

The three pillars of decarbonization electrification, decarbonization of electricity and energy efficiency intertwine and support each other. Electric transportation is only one part of a bigger solution, but an essential part. 

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We at Virta choose to go for RCP2.6.

Read more about decarbonization and the future we are working towards from our new e-Book: The EV Disruption.

Download

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