The way to Zero

Published on
March 6, 2024

Last week the Department of Energy in the US announced to invest $46 Million to boost energy efficiency and reduce emissions in residential and commercial buildings. The money will be allocated into 29 different projects, across 15 states to develop advanced building technologies and support "innovative decarbonization strategies". When these strategies are deployed, across the entire real estate industry, they would significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector. They can eliminate unnecessary or wasteful energy consumption and reduce the strain on the nation’s electric grid. Since the built environment is accountable for up to 40% of GHG emissions, projects like these are more than welcome.


How far are we from zero?

With escalating climate concerns and the critical need to shift the effects of global warming, the concept of achieving "net zero" has emerged as a pivotal and urgent goal.

The consequences of climate change are everywhere around us. Multiple wildfires have tormented the U.S. and Europe in the past few weeks. Wildfires on Hawaii's Maui Island and Big Island have killed at least 96 people (and counting unfortunately), forced thousands of residents and tourists to evacuate, and devastated the historic resort city of Lahaina. Heavy rain in Norway have caused enormous floods. Further on top of that, extreme floods in Slovenia have caused millions worth of (property) damage.

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Wildfires in Hawaii 2023

Net zero, at its core, represents a fundamental equilibrium between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere and the amount removed. This ambitious target involves balancing emissions with various measures, such as carbon capture and renewable energy adoption, to ensure that the overall impact on the climate is minimized.

The path to net zero is not an easy one, but encompasses a multifaceted and intricate roadmap that spans across sectors, industries, and global collaboration. It requires a pivotal role of policy frameworks, technological innovations, corporate commitments, and individual actions in shaping a trajectory towards a sustainable and resilient future. It also requires a collective shift in mindset, inventing of new energy systems, and a commitment to leaving behind a legacy of environmental responsibility for generations to come. This journey towards equilibrium is not without hurdles, but with determination, innovation, and unwavering dedication, the vision of a net-zero world is within reach.


The Stats

In 2020 the global average temperature had risen by approximately 1.2°C* (2.2°F) above pre-industrial levels and GHG levels have surged to over 3,000 gigatonnes in recent years, the highest in millions of years.** June 2023 set a record for the highest monthly sea surface temperature on 174-year record.***** Additionally, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing ice at an accelerating rate. Antarctica lost around 2,720 billion metric tons of ice between 1992 and 2017, contributing to sea level rise.*** Global sea levels have risen by about 8-9 inches (20-23 cm) over the past century. Projections indicate that sea levels could rise by up to 3 feet (1 meter) or more by the end of the century, displacing coastal communities. And these are only a handful of the available (worrying) data.

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Last 9 Year Warmest on Record


As mentioned earlier, we need a collective shift to achieve net zero goals.

The Paris agreement called to keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C, and in order to achieve that, emissions should be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Big companies world-wide are pushing net zero initiatives and governments are rolling out (federal) plans.

However, even if we were to completely stop greenhouse gas emissions today, the actions of our past remain to have consequences for the foreseeable future. Because of the inertia in our climate system emissions will still rise, even if we don’t actively emit. For example, oceans, which cover 71% of our planet, can absorb and store a large amount of heat without showing immediate significant temperature changes. When the Earth's atmosphere warms due to the greenhouse effect, the oceans begin to absorb this excess heat. So even if we stop emitting now, the oceans will continue to absorb the excess heat from the past emissions, leading to continued warming of the planet.


Another example is the changes in ecosystems. As temperatures rise, forests may become more susceptible to pests, disease, or fires, which can result in a “positive” feedback loop, meaning that the process reinforces itself. This positive feedback loop is, despite the name, very negative for climate change.

With this in mind, some are claiming that being net-zero by 2050 is not enough and we should aim for carbon negative by 2030. Enhance carbon sequestration in natural sinks and initiate large- scale carbon removal between 2025 and 2027; And finally, scale and optimize carbon removal technologies between 2027 and 2030.

Construction

The construction industry is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well, primarily due to the energy-intensive processes involved in building and maintaining structures. The built environment and construction sector accounts for about 38-40% of global carbon emissions. On a global scale, it is estimated that every week we build the equivalent of a city the size of Paris.**** The cement industry alone is responsible for about 8% of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions.

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CO2 emissions

Making big changes to the construction and cement industry is necessary to reach decarbonizing goals. Technological innovations and sustainable building practices are on the forefront. And while we see hopeful innovations and solutions coming to the market (from bio-cement to 3D printing), we are not there yet, and investing more is necessary. At giga scale.

Investments in the CleanTech space are growing as the sector is getting more and more matured.

CleanTech startups saw $12.3 billion in venture funding in 2022.******


We are seeing many interesting deals crossing our desk through our global network. Would you like to partner with us or get insights into global markets or some of the competitive deals?

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