top of page

Overview of decarbonation strategies in various continental contexts

Céline Rousselot, Léa Chambaudet, Léo Grégoire, Sharyss Lucress, Mansour Seye, Sofiane Ait Mahrez - MSc Project management, innovation et développement durable, School of Impact - L’école des leaders de l’impact.
- MSc Project management, innovation and sustainable development : School of Impact - The School for impact leaders.

April 27, 2023

Since the 2015 passing of the Paris Agreement by 196 countries, the tone has been set. It is mandatory to keep "the increase in global average temperature well below 2°C". A common goal in the heart of a world with a lot of divergences and inequalities.

From a historical point of view, it is clear that the most developed countries have contributed the most to climate change, and particularly Europe since the industrial revolution. Europe that now wants to be the most proactive continent regarding climate, biodiversity and resource issues. Unquestionably, fossil fuels have significantly improved the quality of life of its inhabitants. However, the least developed countries have not had access yet to this social progress. Should they give it up ? We will focus here on the decarbonisation of a world divided into unequal continents…and the strategy that the latter adopt in view of their respective responsibilities and social contexts.

By design, the Paris Agreement makes countries responsible for defining and achieving their contribution to the global effort to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), consisting of natural gases such as methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3), water vapour (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as industrial gases such as butane, propane, or chlorine. Meeting the targets set by the Paris Agreement means that emissions will peak before 2025 and then fall by 43% by 2030 and 84% by 2050. That is to say an annual decrease of 5% year on year. Otherwise, the +1.5° C target will be out of reach.

Let's illustrate our point with CO2 : according to the IPCC, the remaining carbon budget is 500 GtCO2 corresponding to a 50% probability of limiting global warming to 1.5°C and 1,150 Gt CO2 for a 67% probability of limiting global warming to 2°C.

This brings us to an overview of strategies and trajectories by continent, from the most emissive to the least one, excluding Antarctica because it is uninhabited, non-industrialized and therefore certainly more of a victim than a perpetrator, despite the crucial role that the white continent plays in regulating the earth climate.

⁃ Asia : 17,089 million tons of CO2 emitted from 1960 to 2020 :
If the world factory, as it is still called, has become the world largest emitter at the turn of the century, it is also because it has included the emissions « exported » from Western countries that were relocating their industry to Asia, and particularly to China.

According to the CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project, a global environmental impact non profit NGO) report Rising to the challenge : How companies in Asia Pacific are preparing for the net zero economy, only 8% of Asia Pacific companies in 2021 had signed up for plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions. In addition, less than a third of the companies responding to the survey had adopted science-based targets. But with air pollution peaks frequently exceeding the norm in China's megacities as well as land and groundwater pollution, the Chinese Communist Party is developing the concept of ecological civilization and wants to shift from an industrial economy to an innovation economy by aiming at becoming the world leader in clean energy technologies.

According to the PwC Net Zero Economy Index : Asia Pacific's Transition, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan are aiming at being carbon neutral by 2050, China by 2060 and India by 2070.

⁃ Northern and Southern America : 6,600 million tons of CO2 emitted from 1960 to 2020 :

While Donald Trump had decided to withdraw from the Paris climate Agreement signed by his predecessor Barack Obama, Joe Biden himself, only a few hours into his term, signed an executive order acting the return of the United States into this agreement. Two years later, he passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a package of protectionist measures worth nearly $400 billion, the main part of which concerns the climate. This ten-year plan should enable the United States to achieve its goal of reducing GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to 2005. American companies will benefit from tax credits to invest and produce in green mobility, renewable energy and carbon sequestration.

For its part, Canada has passed the Carbon Neutrality Accountability Act, which calls for a 40% to 45% reduction from 2005 levels and carbon neutrality by 2050. As such, the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan, called Canada Next Steps for Clean Air and a Strong Economy, supports the achievement of these goals.

Brazil, the largest economic power in South America, also seems to have turned the page on climate scepticism after the Jair Bolsonaro defeat. Lula, his successor, has promised to put an end to deforestation in the Amazon and is planning to host the 2025 COP.

According to the report The challenges of climate mitigation in Latin America and the Caribbean : Some proposals for action, published by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), namely achieving carbon neutrality in Latin America and Caribbean countries is complicated on the one hand because of the cost of the transformation in relation to their GDP, on the other hand because of the risks related to the loss of export and tax revenues, especially from high-emission sectors such as oil, gas and coal. Thus, while Brazil, Argentina and Chile are committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, Colombia and Peru are merely engaged in reduction strategies, while Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela are notably absent.

⁃ Europe : 4,946 million tons of CO2 emitted from 1960 to 2020 (excluding Russia) :

With the ambition of becoming the first continent to achieve carbon neutrality, Europe is deploying an ambitious legal arsenal, including the Fit for 55 plan and corresponding legislation to aim for a net-zero greenhouse gases emission industry. This new framework will be followed by a law on critical raw materials and a reform of the European electricity market. Finally, in response to the US Inflation Reduction Act and other Chinese protectionist measures, for the first time, the European Union will activate a reciprocity clause as it is authorized by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Belonging both to Europe and Asia, Russia is committed to reducing its greenhouse gases emissions to zero by 2060. But it says that sanctions, following the illegal invasion of Ukraine, are preventing it from keeping to its emissions reduction schedule. Officials even say that fossil fuels are essential to its economy. Not surprisingly, Climate Action Tracker (CAT) observes that the outcome of Russia climate policy and its national targets are "undoubtedly inadequate."

Because of the war in Ukraine, the European Union has become aware of its energy dependencies and is urgently reconfiguring its supply and production sources, trying as best it can to make them as carbon-free as possible.

⁃ Africa and the Middle East : 3,894 million tons of CO2 emitted from 1960 to 2020 :

Despite 2021 growth rates of 11.4% in Botswana, 10.9% in Rwanda, 8.7% in Eritrea and 8.5% in Zimbabwe, and its diversity and human and natural resources, Africa is considered by all indicators to be the poorest continent in the world.

With 600 million people, or 43% of the continent inhabitants, still without access to electricity in 2022, the challenge for African countries is to generate inclusive growth that will put an end to poverty, without falling into the ways and means used by developed countries up to now, i.e. carbon and budget deficit-based growth.

In this regard, COP 27 ended with a decisive agreement to provide financing for losses and damages suffered by vulnerable countries that were hit hard by climate disasters. Simon Stiell, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate declared : "We have determined a way forward in a decades-long conversation on loss and damage financing, deliberating on how we will address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the worst impacts of climate change."

As regards the neighbouring countries of the Middle East, made up mainly of petro-monarchies, with the exception of Qatar, they are all committed to achieving carbon neutrality in 2050 (United Arab Emirates, Oman) or in 2060 (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait).

⁃ Oceania :

Australia, the most populated country of Oceania and the world's second largest exporter of coal, is committed to achieving zero net emissions by 2050, including a plan to invest A$20 billion in low-emission technologies over the next decade and leverage other private investments in green technologies. Implementation of these commitments will be particularly scrutinized by the Tuvalu archipelago and French Polynesia, which are threatened by rising sea levels.

While every degree counts and while more than 7 years have passed since Laurent Fabius' s green leaf gavel endorsed the agreement, emissions have never fallen since, except for the lock-out period due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As the public awareness is finally increasing and the deadline approaches, the world has entered an inflationary spiral with tensions and social movements here and there, which give a glimpse of what the situation could be if governments and local authorities were delaying action. Climate, biodiversity, resources, social, training, financing : even though the transformation is systemic, it is still possible to act. What remains now consists in simultaneously implementing the commitments made by the international community in order to leave a livable planet and a desirable future for generations to come.

👇 Find out more about the courses offered by the School of Impact 👇

bottom of page