Carbon neutrality in 2050, under which conditions

ZEN2050, the report released Monday, May 27 the association for the Environment, shows that the ambitious goal that the French government has set itself – not to emit more gas-to-greenhouse than it does will be possible to absorb – is at hand. But it involves strong, immediate measures in all parts of society.

“Unprecedented changes”. The terms used by “Companies for the Environment” (EpE) to define the conditions for carbon neutrality by 2050 recall the registry of the last report published by the IPCC last October.

“This is a report not very common in its content, and even less in its aftermath,” wants to believe Dominique Senard about ZEN2050 (for zero net emissions), the study presented by EpE May 27, which took part 27 of the 40 companies it brings together. The former boss of Michelin (who left the company on May 16), now at the helm of Renault, has just passed the torch of the presidency of EpE to Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, boss of BNP Paribas.

Unlike previous publications, ZEN2050 does not contain any corporate commitment to sustainable development. But the report, which provides an integrated picture of society and the French economy, concludes that it is possible for France to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. Better, he says that this goal is compatible with an annual growth of 1 to 2%, and with the creation of some 300,000 jobs. Even, that it could be an engine of this growth.

Divide the final energy consumption by two
But there is a long way to go. To achieve this Grail now officially inscribed in the law (more precisely, in the small energy law that must be voted in the coming months), we will need nothing less than to divide by nearly five our greenhouse gas emissions for from 480 to 100 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. This corresponds to an average annual decrease of -4%, compared with the average of -0.5% observed in recent years, mainly due to the deindustrialisation of the country. This implies, above all, a halving of final energy consumption. At the same time, the absorption capacity of these emissions, now of 50 million tonnes per year, will have to be doubled. The efforts to be made vary by sector. If agriculture will have to divide its emissions by two, for transportation or building, 90% cuts are needed.

Collectively, the transformations of these different sectors will require investments of 75 billion from 2030 then 100 billion per year, to put in comparison with 30 billion today invested each year by France.

Fair and transparent ecological taxation
As well as to change the behavior of citizens, whose membership will be essential, ecological taxation will have its place, provided it is ‘virtuous’, transparent, progressive and that its product is assigned to climate change. A hollow definition of what has been done so far with the contribution energy-climate (carbon tax). This will require some adjustments. Thus, “Today, all the economic mechanisms are favorable to the pavilion area”, regrets Claire Tutenuit, general delegate of EpE, recalling that the “dream of the pavilion”, synonymous with constrained mobility and partially responsible for the crisis of the vests yellow.

However, there is no question of concentrating the population in the city without ensuring the quality of life, with particular attention to the attractiveness of city centers and access to public transport.

By presenting nine very different types of households at the beginning of their report, the authors of ZEN 2050 are keen to show that carbon neutrality is compatible with a multiplicity of lifestyles. There is no question of making it a scarecrow synonymous with punitive ecology.

Change without giving up quality of life
However, certain behaviors will have to evolve in depth. Starting with the composition of our plates, which should be less meaty and more local.

But beyond the economic accessibility to more virtuous lifestyles for the greatest number, the issue is also on the cultural level. So that everyone (public authorities, companies and citizens) push in the same direction, “It should be that climate issues are included in the collective imagination, which is far from the case,” regrets Jean-Laurent Bonnafé .

This rooting goes from an early age through education and training and information beyond the circles of specialists alone. Advertising also has a role to play in changing the collective imagination and making sobriety and frugality as seductive as the opulence and overflow traditionally associated with the consumer society. This is not impossible to judge by the success of the “flygskam”, or the shame of flying, which is flourishing in Sweden and even begins to worry the profession.

Unsurprisingly, the thermal renovation of buildings is also in a good position. To reach the 500,000 annual renovations, a goal set since the Grenelle de l’Environnement but never reached for 10 years, the authors suggest forcing homeowners to undertake renovations at key moments, such as sales. The idea is not new, but so far has never managed to pass through the caudine forks of Parliament.

Jean-Dominique Senard particularly wanted to insist on a key word: solidarity, essential to make possible these changes in the depths of our ways of life. This solidarity is essential not only between companies, public authorities and French citizens / consumers, but also in terms of international cooperation.

Biomass and pillar land use at the heart of carbon neutrality
But it is above all the use of the soil, and therefore land use planning and agriculture, which is at the heart of the subject. Indeed, only a halt to the artificialisation of soils and an evolution of agricultural practices will allow the reconstitution of natural carbon sinks capable of doubling the national absorption capacity. Forest and agricultural policies will have to be developed and managed in such a way that access to biomass does not become a stumbling block. Indeed, the development of new uses of agricultural and forestry products, whether for energy, materials or chemistry, was putting a strain on its availability. Only an increase in production (including a slight increase in forest area) with new governance can achieve this. The management of the French forest, fragmented and under-exploited, has indeed significant margins of improvement.

On the other hand, it seems difficult to imagine a Franco-French reform of agricultural policy, even though at European level, the common agricultural policy, about to be renegotiated, weighs heavily on national guidelines.

The weight of the European context
It is also at the European level that the authors advocate changing trade relations with the rest of the world: “Access to the European market is too important for the major exporting countries. Europe must review its commercial relations with them, “said Jean-Laurent Bonnafé. This could include the introduction of a carbon tax at European borders.

The new face of the European Union following the elections held yesterday, May 26, including the thrust of the Greens, particularly in Germany but also in Ireland and France, could favor the inflections suggested by EpE. Will it happen fast enough? In their optimism, the authors of the ZEN2050 report do not forget to recall the obvious: the more the measures recommended will be implemented late, the more efforts to be made will be demanding and painful.

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