Paris, 20 May 2019: Entreprises pour l’Environnement (EpE), WBCSD’s Global Network partner in France, has issued a ZEN 2050 study (net-zero 2050), exploring the feasibility of carbon neutrality in France by 2050, in terms of the balance between greenhouse gas emissions and absorptions. It is an ambitious - and original - study in that it incorporates the physical, technical, economic and sociological aspects of the issue into a coherent and realistic whole. It has benefitted from the strong involvement of various companies, experts and stakeholders.
What are the study’s key messages?
1) Carbon neutrality by 2050 is feasible, but requires unprecedented changes in our lifestyles and in the ways we use energy and technology to reduce our emissions According to the assumptions of the study, France could double its number of carbon sinks to absorb up to 100 MtCO2eq by 2050. At the same time, it could reduce its emissions by 80% (around 4-5% annually) and cut by two of its final energy consumption, thereby achieving a balance. The scale of this transformation is such as to require action across all sectors of the economy (see p.42-43 of the publication). Accordingly, the study points out that farming could cut its current emissions by 50%, while construction and domestic transport could achieve reductions in excess of 90%. Technical solutions are available to this end.
2) This neutrality is compatible with diversified and comfortable lifestyles, economic growth, and job creation.
The main systems organizing our lives will be transformed, resulting in more compact urban areas with a marked slowdown in urban sprawl, more attractive city centers and small towns, largely electric mobility based on services and public transport, locally sourced food with less meat, a more circular economy driven by practically fossil fuel-free modes of consumption and production, final energy consumption halved, and a financial system geared to the transformation. Such a transition will deliver a host of benefits, including improved air and food quality, health, noise levels and living conditions.
3) It can be achieved if all the stakeholders - public authorities, businesses and citizens - embrace that objective and decide together to act now to achieve this transformation.
The economic viability of these new pathways also requires a high level of international cooperation and action on incorporating climate into international trade rules and European non-climate policies (external trade, transport, common agricultural policy, industrial, economic and R&D policies, etc.). Overall, the massive deployment of existing technologies would achieve the required reduction levels. Corporate research and innovation initiatives, backed up by public research, could greatly facilitate the transition by producing new, more cost-effective solutions.
Because France is falling behind on its emission reduction commitments(3) and the transformations required are significant, any further delay would jeopardize the attainment of the goal of carbon neutrality announced in 2017. Transition at the required pace creates an urgent need for binding, incentivizing and socially fair policies that take the long view in a credible way for both businesses and consumers.