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thisisFINLAND

Climate idea

THE GLOBAL 1.5 DEGREE CO2 BUDGET WILL SOON EXPIRE - THE WORLD NEEDS A POSITIVE "TIPPING POINT"


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Author: Kim Møller - M.Sc. in Business Administration
Updated Jan. 2024
The world's current pace towards solving the climate crisis reflects a lack of timely due diligence. Globally, we pump just under 0.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere daily - and thus we are rapidly on our way to using up our remaining "CO2 budget". A budget for how much CO2 there is room for in the atmosphere before we reach a concentration where the insulating effect becomes so massive that the earth's warming passes the 1.5 degrees that it was the ambition of the Paris Agreement that we should stay below. The transition is simply too slow for us to reach the net zero finish line before the carbon budget runs out. There is a need for an event that can seriously set the pace of global change.
The psychological aspect is important in any transition. If we have to cross a raging river it may seem impossible, but as soon as the first one has landed on the other side, the challenge immediately seems much more manageable. Should we adapt to something no one has ever accomplished before, vs. convert us to something that the neighbouring nation has already achieved. Regardless of the objective size of the challenge, the psychological aspect makes a very significant difference. In addition, successful measures can be copied, improved and scaled up. The same applies to the climate crisis - as soon as the first representative nation has reached its net-zero goal, the whole thing will suddenly become much more tangible and no doubt it will spur the handful of nations that are "on wheels" to make an extraordinary effort in order to also reach the finish line. After that, we will potentially be able to experience a definite chain reaction whereby the world's remaining nations are pulled up at the necessary higher pace on the way to the global net-zero goal.
In a report by Mckinsey and Co. it is estimated that the global transition to the Paris Agreement's goal of net zero in 2050 will require an upscaling of the roll-out of green solutions towards 2050 with an increased annual investment level corresponding to 4% of global GDP . Swiss Re, the world's largest reinsurance company, published a report last year in which they estimate that the costs of climate change, at the world's current rate, will increase gradually, and in 2050 be up to 14% of the world's GDP . In other words: it costs to act effectively on the climate crisis in time, but conversely if we do not act effectively, and when enough time is given, the bill becomes many times larger.
The leading nation will have to almost eliminate its emissions of greenhouse gases in terms of electricity production, transportation, building heating, industry and agriculture. And how could it turn out?... This basically means conversion of the remaining fossil fuel share of the nation's electricity production to green electricity, as well as expansion of the total capacity. Building heating, transport sector and industry powered by the green electricity and other green fuels. Finally, an agriculture that has been converted to primary focus on the production of plant-based proteins, which will effectively reduce climate-heavy methane emissions and free up vast amounts of land . Afforestation and other measures ensure that the nation's remaining greenhouse gas emissions are offset by corresponding carbon uptake, thereby ensuring net zero.
The Himalayan nation of Bhutan has 70% of the country's area covered by forest, with a statutory limit of a minimum of 60%. Furthermore, the majority of the country's electricity consumption is generated via large hydropower plants. In fact, the country is in a situation where they more than meet the net-zero goal, having net negative emissions, as their forests absorb significantly more CO2 than the nation emits . Bhutan is an important example that illustrates that it is indeed possible for a nation to reach net zero and even more than this. However, this is a developing country with modest industry and transportation, which is also favoured by special natural conditions.
Who can realistically take the leadership role for the industrialized countries? USA or China? No, they are probably not really suited to take the role. The United States - a large collection of states with very different interests and a large oil industry. The US is simply not agile enough in this situation. Nor has China made any moves to assume a leadership role. Furthermore, it will be a relatively more difficult task for China to meet their national emissions than it will be for Western countries that have restructured their economy to a greater degree being based on the service sector. What about Germany - maybe, but currently after all, they are still finding their legs to stand on, in terms of energy, being able to manage without Russian gas. France?... maybe, but they have already experienced problems in getting the population on board in connection with "yellow vests" and social inequality issues.
Among the top candidates for the leadership role, I think we will find Finland, Great Britain and Denmark, with Sweden right on their heels. The Parliament of Finland currently has the world's most ambitious plan for achieving net zero as early as 2035 . Finland's target has been enacted into law, as is, for example, also the case for the Danish 70% reduction target in 2030 and the UK's target of 68% reduction also in 2030 .
How quickly should the role model nation reach net zero? Ideally, the leader would already be at the finish line in the latter half of the 2020s. One might think it is a short time. But it is e.g. more than 100% longer than what the Americans had to spend, since in just 2-3 years after the Pearl Harbour attack they built the world's largest war machine from almost nothing, which turned out to be decisive for World War II.
It is perhaps difficult, right now, to imagine the popular support to pull the trigger already in the 20s. But no one knows the future; potentially we could see the summers of the next three years accelerate towards brutally more powerful and more frequent extreme weather events. Potentially, the public sentiment could turn on a plate as it did in the USA after Pearl Harbour.
But for the time being, we probably have to prepare for the fact that even the world's best top candidates currently must aim to reach the finish line first in the 30s. Finland has already announced their net-zero ambition in 2035. If the role model function is to make sense in any way, it must at least be with the ambition to reach net-zero around the middle to the latter half of the 30s and with legislation that it must be in place by 2040. After that, the top candidates are caught up of e.g. Germany, which has legislated a net-zero target in 2045 .
The first nation to finish will consequently experience a great interest from the other nations, to learn from its experience. The leading nation will of course experience having invested extra resources, as it has had to "tread the trail as the first". However, this will be offset by a significant system export. Nor should it be underestimated the significant savings on the nation's total health expenditure, which will naturally follow in the wake of the markedly minimized air pollution when the combustion of fossil fuels ceases. For instance - for Denmark, this corresponds to a saving of close to 1% of GDP, or DKK 20 billion (USD 2.9 billion), annually .
If we are to get the global adjustment up to speed to actually reach net zero in time, it is of crucial importance that we get a representative nation over the finish line quite early on. This means that one or more of the front runner nations make an extraordinary effort and quickly accelerate towards the goal in order to become a role model for the rest of the world. A very large responsibility rests on the front runner nations to utilize their capabilities and potential to actually make this happen.

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Endnotes:
UN environment program: Emissions gap report 2022. October 2022.

McKinsey & Company: The net-zero transition January 2022.

Swiss Re Institute: The economics of climate change: no action is not an option. April 2021

World Resources Institute: Shifting diets for a sustainable food future. Working paper April 2016. Figure ES-2 Land use (ha) per ton of protein consumed, plant-based vs. animal-based.
https://files.wri.org/d8/s3fs-public/Shifting_Diets_for_a_Sustainable_Food_Future_1.pdf

Science ABC. Which Is The Only Carbon-Negative Country?. Updated 8 July 2022. “Bhutan’s carbon footprint is only 2.2 million tons of CO2, but interestingly, Bhutan has dedicated 72% of its land to forest cover. It has so many trees that the country has become a carbon sink for 6 million tons of CO2! Therefore, while no other country has even achieved becoming carbon neutral, Bhutan has managed to be carbon-negative!”

Finland’s Ministry of the environment. Government’s climate policy: climate-neutral Finland by 2035. Updated spring 2022.
https://ym.fi/en/climate-neutral-finland-2035


















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  • Chris Ndungu

    8 w

    This is a fascinating thought out idea.

    3
    • Rukia Ahmed Abdi

      8 w

      great piece for a read. The world needs to walk the talk. We need to act and act now. We don't have time.

      5
      • Kevin

        8 w

        This is a well thought out idea

        9
        • Markus Lutteman

          8 w

          Go Finland! 🇫🇮 The Nordic region needs your climate leadership, especially now that Sweden is backtracking on its climate pledges.

          8
          Welcome, let's solve the climate crisis together
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