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Making an analogy between CO2 avoidance, dieting and counting calories – if it gets measured, it gets managed.

June 16, 2021

Rina Cerrato


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CO2 Avoidance Goals – Cutting the Carbs!

As the term implies, CO2 Avoidance means avoiding CO2 emissions into the atmosphere so that the planet can reach the ambitious goal of limiting a global temperature rise of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. In other, simpler terms, we need to go on a diet and reduce our CO2 carbon, or carbs, to reach our desired temperature weight!

In the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that at our current global emission habit needs to half from 49-52 GtCO2e a year to 26 to 29 GtCO2e per year by 2030 to have a fifty percent chance of meeting the 1.5 to 2 degree Celsius goal by 2050. The UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report 2019 refers to a downward trend total emissions at an annual rate of 7.6 percent, based on 56 GtCO2e global emissions.

Due to Covid-19, there have been a reduction in activities that lead to temporary reduction in global emissions. Bill Gates, in the book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”, refers to 51 GtCO2e global emissions based on data suggesting global emissions dropped by around 5 percent due to Covid-19. The Emissions Gap Report 2020 indicates that, despite the break due to Covid-19, the world is still heading for a temperature rise of 3C. Even if either figure is not exact, Covid-19 has not brought us closer to the limit temperature rise of 1.5C. In fact, according to the same report, in 2019 total GHG emissions reached a new trend high of 59.1 GtCO2e.

The real lesson is we need to be mindful that the reduction in 2020, due to a global pandemic, is only temporary. As we “get back to normal”, there will be an increase in emissions. We have been here before. In 2018, emissions jumped rather than reduced, breaking the 2017 record. In the US, energy-related emissions in 2018 rose for the first time since 2014, due to more extreme summer and winters, transportation, and strong economy. If we consider the effects of climate change such as more frequent climate events (which Bill Gates also refers to in his book) plus the need for economic recovery and the increase in development, we will be back to a 56 GtCO2e trajectory or worse. Therefore, our actions today will matter more than they did a year ago. According to the UN report, a green pandemic recovery could cut up to 25 per cent off the potential emissions in 2030 to 44 GtCO2e, and hopefully put us on a path to a 2C temperature increase. However, an additional 0.5C increase needs to be avoided to put us on the best case scenario of 1.5C. We need to unlock innovation and investments to fast track solutions to make up the difference. The message is the same: It is a short window of ten years to get to carbon neutrality in thirty years.

Carbon neutrality does not mean zero emissions, it means a balanced approach where for every CO2 emission there is an equal CO2 reduction or avoidance. Some sectors, such as aviation and agriculture, will continue to emit; therefore, we must find other sectors where we can reduce or make up the difference. As Bill Gates states in his book, we cannot deny development in poorer countries, so we must find the best way forward with reduced climate change contribution.

If we continue to assume the required annual rate 7.6 percent, and equate to a current weight of 56 GtCO2e of annual emissions, then our desired overall weight loss over the next 10 years is at least 30.6 GtCO2e – all so we can fit into the poshest, most fantastic outfit at the 2050 climate gala. To get there we need to cut our CO2 “caloric intake”. But what is that number? We still need to allow some sectors and activities to generate emissions (so many of us know how hard it is to cut all carbs out). How do we lose the weight, while allowing the occasional carbs?

Based on the sector data and analyses provided by IPCC in the AR5 and the UN emissions gap report, iClima estimates that in order to balance the scale and achieve the halving of emissions while allowing emissions from certain sectors to happen, we would need an average CO2 avoidance of approximately 3.06 GtCO2e per year over the next ten years. Like in any diet, we lose the most weight in year one, and less each following year, to get to our desired loss of 30.6 GtCO2e. It may seem like a very tall order, but recent developments and innovation in technology (such as Vehicle-to-Grid), and changes in our transportation habits and behaviours can have a tremendous impact towards that goal. It is like cutting out the chips and processed foods (high calorie carbs) and choosing plant-based diets and whole foods instead. And in doing so, it is not sacrificing and restricting lifestyle, but rather making changes towards a sustainable goal – and fitting into that amazing pair of jeans, 30 years later.

The iClima Earth Solution

Now that the CO2 diet makes sense, where is iClima in all this? Well, think of iClima as your nutritional coach and personal trainer. iClima is here to provide you with the information that will help inform decisions on how to cut the carbs; providing exercise and meal options that can help reach that 30.6 GtCO2e by 2030 avoidance aspiration. If we add up what we avoid, or loose, in our diet every year by 2030 we will have lost an average of 18.8 GtCO2e per year. About approximately forty-three percent, or 8 GtCO2e, of that required CO2 avoidance could potentially be met by renewable energy, consumer transportation, and changes in food and waste consumption – companies that are covered by the iClima Earth universe of securities.

By the way, the clean CO2 carb options taste way better than the old, oily, over processed, fills-you-up with gas CO2 diet we have been following for the past few centuries!