Net zero emissions possible in Europe by 2050

| 28th September 2018
Meat consumption should be reduced by 25% by 2030 to enable a net zero society

Meat on display at a butchers: meat consumption should be reduced by 25% by 2030 to enable a net zero society

Flickr Creative Commons
A future with net zero greenhouse gases is technically and economically possible, with a stronger economy, a more resilient society, and higher levels of wellbeing, according to a new report.

What has really struck us during our research is how attainable the transition to zero emissions is: most of the tools we need are already available.

The range of measures used to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) needs to be widened, with more focus on how we operate as a society such as eating meat, a study has concluded.

The research, by the European Climate Foundation and Climact, a climate and energy consultancy, stated that to be on a trajectory to net-zero by 2050, GHG emissions in Europe will need to be reduced by between 55 to 65 percent compared to 1990 levels by 2030.

This means a significant increase in ambition from the current EU 2030 target of 40 percent. The next 10 years are therefore critical, it said.

Trickle-down effect

Commercially-available solutions can already take Eurrope about 75 percent of the way to net-zero if deployed at scale, it said. The remaining 25 percent can be achieved based on known approaches and techniques for which further scaling up and commercialisation is needed. 

The researchers recommended more focus on how we operate as a society, for example, the introduction of circular economy principles so that products are designed to last longer, which can have major trickle-down effects on the entire value chain.

Meat consumption must be reduced by 25 percent (and at least halved by 2050) by 2030, without increasing consumption of dairy products, it stated.

Julien Pestiaux, partner at Climact, said: “What has really struck us during our research is how attainable the transition to zero emissions is: most of the tools we need are already available across all sectors, and using them will redirect the huge financial flows spent on fossil fuels back in to the European economy.”

The benefits of the transition “massively outweigh” the additional investments needed, particularly given that consumers are starting to understand circular economy principles, for example in relation to plastics, he added.

As reported by The Ecologist this week, the Labour party has committed to the target for UK emissions to be slashed to “net zero” by the middle of the century, boosting ambition from the current 80 percent set in the Climate Change Act, if they come to power.

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She was formerly the deputy editor of the Environmentalist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

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