From societies to economies, energy powers everything. Heating, transport and electricity keep the world running around us but these activities also consume huge amounts of fossil fuels. As a result, coal, oil and natural gas overwhelmingly dominate our global energy mix, making energy production and its use the single largest contributor to global warming.
Higher global temperatures escaborate the effects of climate change, stressing ecosystems, threatening biodiversity and intensifying extreme weather events. The changing conditions of a warmer world put our food systems, health and water supply at high risk.
In response to the current climate emergency, Europe has pledged to lead on climate action and cut its emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, with the objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. However, coal-producing regions or regions with polluting heavy industries make the transition to a decarbonised future more vulnerable.
The good news? Progress is underway in the renewable energy transition. More than 80 per cent of all new electricity capacity added last year was renewable, thanks to reduced costs and increased deployment. The rising share of solar, wind, hydropower, bioenergy and geothermal power is partly attributable to the net decommissioning of fossil fuel power generation in Europe, but these energies must accelerate even faster by a factor of 5 to 6.
The United Nations has outlined pathways to decarbonise our energy consumption through aggressive efficiency measures, a mass expansion of renewables and a shift from fossil fuels to carbon-neutral alternatives. It stresses that the deployment of new and smarter end-use technologies – like smart water heaters, high efficiency pumps, and electric vehicles - are needed to meet the 1.5 °C target.
Energy meets innovation
EIT Climate-KIC works to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon, climate-resilient society. Thanks to our range of innovation programmes, nearly 500 new products and services have been brought to market, avoiding an estimated 13 Million Tonnes (MT) of CO2e per year. Here’s a look at some zero-carbon initiatives in the works:
1. EIT Climate-KIC’s ClimAccelerator programmes are playing a crucial role in helping seed a new generation of cleantech businesses across Europe: Estonian start-up Sympower produces software that enables the balancing of renewable energy supply and demand, helping to secure grid stability; Netherlands-based BladeRunner’s portable power plant generates clean, reliable electricity for riverside communities; and award-winning British design and innovation company, Naked Energy, is developing a revolutionary and patented hybrid solar panel that generates both electricity and heat for commercial and industrial applications.
2. EIT Climate-KIC’s Just Transformations Deep Demonstration focuses on the particular challenges and opportunities related to decarbonising regions of Europe still dependent on coal and heavy industry. The programme recognises that people and economies engaged in these sectors are highly vulnerable and demonstrates that just transformations are possible.
3. Starting in October 2021, NetZeroCities will kick off its journey towards climate-neutral cities. Coordinated by EIT Climate-KIC, the four-year project will support European cities in drastically cutting down greenhouse gas emissions to achieve climate neutrality, one of the biggest challenges our societies face today. NetZeroCities is funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, supporting the European Green Deal in building a low-carbon, climate resilient future through research and innovation.
When it comes to taking personal action, citizens have more power than they think. Making simple lifestyle changes can help save energy and support a more sustainable planet. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) advises the following:
1. Seal windows and doorsteps, avoid thermic bridges, install double glass glazing, use LED bulbs, invest in high inertia radiators.
2. Swap your energy provider to a non-fossil fuel based provider, or support collective or community run wind and solar farms.
3. Swap for options like electric vehicles, cleaner fuels and fewer kilometers to reduce your transport footprint.
4. Produce your own energy: install a small-scale solar installation to power your home.