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Green technology is urgently needed to save the climate

A new study warns that if net zero emission targets are to be met, industry must considerably speed up investments in green technology that would allow the manufacturing of materials using renewable energy. National strategies for replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources will need an integrated approach to material production and energy use.

In order to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-21st century, it is essential to ensure that no electricity will be produced from fossil fuels. Currently, in industrial countries, steel manufacturing accounts for a tenth of CO2 emissions, and aluminium production three percent of all CO2 emissions. 

“Delays in replacing existing steel and aluminium manufacturing capacity represent a crucial ‘lock in’ constraint on achieving net zero,” explained study lead author Dr. Alan Grainger, a senior lecturer in Global Change and Policy at the University of Leeds

“Humanity’s overwhelming dependence on steel, which accounts for 94 percent of all metal production, and the size of new aluminium manufacturing capacity in China and the Persian Gulf, are a huge blockage that cannot be ignored. The UK Net Zero Strategy, published last week, recognizes this problem, but lacks detail on how to tackle it.”

According to the researchers, governments should strengthen international carbon reporting standards for energy-intensive industries, so that levels of CO2 emissions can be measured in a more transparent way in order to asses progress towards national net zero targets. Furthermore, the carbon prices should increase to make alternative sources more economically viable and attractive.

However, cutting CO2 emissions is only half of the challenge. “To achieve net zero we need to remove as much as CO2 as we put into the atmosphere. It’s like those old greengrocers’ scales – with carbon emissions on the one side and carbon removals on the other. We can take emissions out of the atmosphere by planting new forests and deploying carbon capture and storage technology.”

If global forest expansions are delayed and new green technology with low CO2 emissions are not urgently introduced, the net zero emission targets set for the middle of the century will not be achieved, thus pushing the Earth one more step towards a climate-related catastrophe. 

The study is published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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