A stark picture of the future of our planet was painted when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its Sixth Assessment Report.

Global warming of 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels is forecast to be exceeded this century, unless deep reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions occur in the coming decades. This will lead to increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves, flooding and droughts.

The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to avoid this by capping the rise of global warming to “well below 2°C”. There are options available now, in every sector, that can at least halve emissions by 2030, but the IPCC insists on the urgency of the matter indicating a three-year timeframe to reverse the course.

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb

Despite this, GHG emissions continue to climb across all sectors – most rapidly in transport and industry, with the latter accounting for a quarter of global emissions.

Like in the EU, many countries have already legislated their commitment to emissions reduction, with more expected to follow. With carbon emission reduction targets passed into law, industries around the world will require major structural changes to secure their licence to operate, competitiveness and market share.

Designing decarbonization plans

Forward-looking businesses are anticipating those regulations by committing to net zero targets before 2050. They are designing decarbonization plans, by assessing levers to gain energy and process efficiency; increase the reuse of products and raw materials as part of the ‘circular economy’; explore greener alternatives for raw materials; reduce production scrap; or utilize cleaner electricity, hydrogen, greener fuels and other carbon management technologies.

Some are finding ways to capitalize on first-mover advantages in this space through business models, innovation and new coalitions. Companies like Ericsson or Henkel, whose locations in Lewisville and Düsseldorfwere designated as Sustainability Lighthouses, have been leveraging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and industrial internet of things to unlock new levels of production sustainability and optimize their resources efficiency.

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