World CO2 Emissions Reduction Day reminds us of our responsibility as inhabitants of the planet and warns us of what is becoming increasingly evident: inaction in the face of global warming can have devastating consequences for humanity. The film Don’t look up, by Adam McKay, reflects this satirically and brilliantly through the metaphor of a comet that will collide with the Earth in a matter of six months, faced with the indifference of a large part of society and the helplessness of the scientists.
The film is not really a disaster film, nor do I want to be an alarmist. On the contrary, one positive aspect of the film is that I consider that the aftertaste it leaves is not one of despair, but one that pushes us into action: let us listen to science, let us not waste scarce time on debates that distract us from the real objective, and let us agree to do something now: decarbonise as a matter of urgency. It is obvious, but to find solutions, the first thing to do is to be clear about the problem that needs solving, and in this case it is a matter of reducing emissions.
In the absence of final figures yet, it appears that after declining by 5.4% in 2020, in 2021 global CO2 emissions rebounded to pre-pandemic levels (2019). One thing to bear in mind is that the current energy crisis and the extreme volatility in the markets have caused a certain return to a highly emissive energy such as coal, although at least in the case of Europe and the United States this seems purely cyclical.
The point is that in less than 30 years, and as established in the Paris Agreement commitments, we have to be a carbon neutral society to ensure that the global temperature does not increase by more than 1.5 ºC.
The challenge is immense and multifaceted, and today I would like to share three considerations on how I believe we should confront it:
- Taking advantage of every technology available to us that allows us to reduce emissions
All the CO2 we manage to stop emitting today contributes to reducing overall net emissions, because as I like to say, this is not a question of flow, but of stock. One of the peculiarities of CO2 among all greenhouse gases (GHG) is that it can remain in the atmosphere for more than one hundred years. Accordingly, concentration levels, and therefore global warming, depend on the total accumulated emissions.
Replacing coal with natural gas already allows us, today, to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% to 50%. This is decarbonisation.
- Continuing economic progress
If it is indisputable that global warming is linked to human development, let us change the energy model without relinquishing wealth and progress, betting for a sustainable economy. To achieve this, it is essential to continue to decouple economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions in industrialised countries and, especially, to begin to do so in emerging countries. This is the main challenge of energy efficiency, which is key to the decarbonisation process. As is circular economy, in which a renewable gas such as biomethane will play a fundamental role.
- At the lowest possible social cost
Unlike Don’t look up, here, at least in Europe, most of us have reacted and understood that energy transition is necessary, but we must also assume that it will not be an easy process and that it will impact the lives of all of us. That is why our objective must be twofold: to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change, at the lowest possible social cost.
If we do not consider all the collectives and as such it turns into a process of winners and losers, it could lead to social revolution. It is the responsibility of all of us involved to ensure that this is a fair and inclusive transition and that it is carried out prioritising social cohesion.
One last idea to finish: “The energy transition in the European Union must be realistic and with verifiable sustainability targets”, as Mariano Marzo says in an interesting interview published last weekend.
This is the way we are contributing from Enagás: we have brought forward our commitment to be carbon neutral by 2040, ten years ahead of the target we set ourselves just a year ago. Our targets are ambitious and aligned with science, and we are meeting them at a good pace: we have reduced our CO2 emissions by more than 63% since 2014. We are very clear about the urgent need to decarbonise.