What is decarbonation or decarbonisation?
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What is decarbonation or decarbonisation?

What is decarbonation or decarbonisation?

Known as the challenge of tomorrow’s world, is there anyone who hasn’t heard of decarbonation or decarbonisation? So, what is decarbonisation? 

This word comes up time and time again in the media but before we look at why we should decarbonise, how decarbonisation is implemented, which energy sources are involved as well as energy efficiency, do we know the exact definition of decarbonisation? 

The definition of decarbonisation 

Decarbonisation involves implementing measures and techniques to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (or GHG), carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The goal is to do without fossil fuels as much as possible in order to become carbon neutral by 2050 ideally; this is still called decarbonised energy.

It all comes down to reducing the carbon footprint of an industry, business sector, country or entire economy.

The aim of decarbonisation is to reduce the carbon content of the primary energy sources that emit greenhouse gases and gradually replace them with renewable or carbon-free energy sources. 

What are the decarbonisation processes?

There are four: 

–      Renewable energies (see the breakdown below)

Investing in structures that use up less energy and release a less substantial amount of greenhouse gas. It’s all about renewable energies.  

This is one of the paths to take towards the planned target of carbon neutrality by 2050. 

–      Consuming fewer fossil fuels and recovering by-products

This aims to reduce the demand on our resources. We’re also talking about the circular economy, product reuse and industrial ecology.

–      Carbon capture, or CO2 capture. 

–      Recovering CO2 as a raw material (production of motor fuel, rock, etc.).

Why resort to decarbonisation? 

Fact: the greenhouse gas (GHG) that we produce, such as methane and carbon dioxide, is one of the causes of global warming. Fossil fuels destabilise the greenhouse effect.  

That’s why decarbonising the economy is a priority. Innovation in the energy sector is one of the alternatives to help us move away from this polluting operating model. 

Decarbonisation leads the way to a more competitive energy transition and develop the industry

–      Electricity 

We already mentioned it in the introduction: one of the alternatives to emitting greenhouse gases is to drastically reduce the production of fossil fuels (coal, petrol or natural gas) in order to reach carbon neutrality, ideally.
To do so, using low carbon and renewable energy sources to move away from fossil fuels is a necessary stage if we want to decarbonise the energy sector. 

Producing renewable energy means we can draw less on our resources and emit less greenhouse gas waste. We need to resort to an “energy mix” combining renewable energy and more traditional energies as it is difficult to transform a model overnight, not just because energy consumption does not drop and the costs cannot be increased too suddenly. Combining renewable electricity production (such as solar energy, photovoltaic energy, etc.) with nuclear electricity production (non-renewable but very low carbon). 

–      Domestic heating

The average citizen can take action to reduce energy consumption from heating fuel.  Domestic heating is part of the energy sources that participate in emitting toxic gas. 

These are the types of domestic heating that emit CO2: gas heating, wood fuel, etc. As citizens, we each have the chance to decarbonise our daily lives by using electric heating or heat pumps as much as possible, including energy sources that come from nature (water, air, soil). 

This issue has been taken up by a number of stakeholders, but it’s the French Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME) that was unequivocal in pointing

out in a report* that the building sector needs to be involved. According to the ADEME, the renovation of buildings must go hand in hand with the development of low-carbon electric heating, such as heat pumps or electric heating. 
In this regard, heating networks have been created in Russia and China to distribute the heat emitted by one or more boiler rooms to several clients at the same time. 

This same report raises the alarm on the vast production of carbon dioxide emitted by the building sector; or around 20% nationally (in France).   

–      Transport

Once again, citizens have a role to play in reducing CO2. 
The roll out of the low-emission electric vehicle development chain is one of the projects that France, Norway and Sweden have undertaken. 
But aside from electric vehicles, there’s a whole urban infrastructure that participates in reducing the emission of polluting gases. 

  • Opting for public transport (bus, train, tramway, and increasingly, the bicycle)
  • Opting for car sharing
  • Consuming locally to reduce the journey of products and thus their carbon footprint.

It’s all about changing the road, sea and air transport sectors, which account for a large part of the emissions. And that’s why we’re now talking about hydrogen aircraft or LNG ships (LNG being a less polluting gas than heavy fuel oil). 

What part do the public authorities have to play in decarbonisation? COP26 as an example of State investment   

The massive involvement of States and public authorities in decarbonising economies is going to set a precedent for consumer and company practices. 
Starting on 13 November 2021 in Glasgow, the COP26 summit, also called “the Glasgow Agreement”, demonstrates the awareness of the largest states on the planet. An agreement to combat global warming was reached at the end of the two days of intensive negotiations. 

Although the results seem to be mixed, as the countries in the north were more cautious on the topic than the countries in the south, it should nevertheless be noted that it’s the first time that a United Nations climate conference has tackled fossil fuels head-on, and it is the beginning of mobilisation in the fight against climate disruption. 

What are the objectives of decarbonisation? 

As we have said, ensuring energy efficiency requires awareness and that a global decarbonisation strategy is implemented. 

The number one objective is to acknowledge this priority and provide the means required to implement it. 

Yet, we were practically first-hand witnesses to the difficulty around this kind of undertaking at COP26. 
Following the example of European countries, France has become a leader and is clearly aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

–      Carbon neutrality, what is it? 

Carbon neutrality is the will to reach a balance between carbon emissions linked to human activities and the absorption of carbon from the atmosphere, made possible by carbon sinks such as forests. 

–      The “National Low Carbon Strategy” The French Government’s roadmap is driven by the “National Low Carbon Strategy”, launched in 2015 and revised in 2018-2019. It sets out the main guidelines for a successful transition towards a low carbon economy. 

–      Recovery Plan 

To encourage the sector’s stakeholders to accelerate their decarbonisation processes, France has released grants of almost 3 billion euros as part of the Recovery Plan. This sum will sustain industrial investments in domains such as energy efficiency and electrification, leading to a reduction in greenhouse gases.

What are the solutions for decarbonisation? 

The answer that immediately springs to mind is: consuming less and consuming better. But does this ready-made response still make sense? And if so, how? 

–      Aiming for energy efficiency 

Energy efficiency concerns the energy that is used, for example, to heat buildings, that which is used to run industries, and that which plays a part in the use of cars, etc. 

–      Striving for “energy sobriety” 

Energy sobriety, which the name suggests, is simply about reducing energy consumption and thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

–      Betting on renewable energies 

Renewable energy is an energy that is replenished quickly and naturally. It is also called green energy. The aim is to replace the most polluting fuels like coal and oil with renewable energies.

There are 6 renewable energies: 

  • Solar energy
  • Wind energy
  • Hydraulic energy
  • Biomass
  • Geothermal energy
  • Marine energy

–      Enabling carbon capturing 

To capture carbon, it is necessary to secure the natural ecosystems contained in soils, for example, and to develop capture and storage technologies, at the same time. 

–      Recovering CO2 as a raw material 

The principle of recovering carbon dioxide (CO2) involves seeing it as a raw material, which is captured upon the release of industrial fumes and exploited to produce a number of commercially profitable products or operations.

Thus, the will of public authorities and manufacturers to become carbon neutral, coupled with specific solutions to decarbonise our economy, makes way for a generation that is aware of the fact that profound changes in the way we produce and consume are both necessary and attainable. 




What is decarbonation or decarbonisation?

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