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Can the EU become carbon neutral by 2050? A new strategy from the EU!

Can the EU become carbon neutral by 2050? A new strategy from the EU!

On Wednesday 28 November 2018, the European Commission adopted a strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy (net-zero emissions) by 2050!  A Clean Planet for All, tactically released ahead of the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP 24), which will be hosted in Katowice, Poland from 2-14 December, describes seven overarching areas that require action and eight different scenarios that allow the EU to significantly reduce emissions.

The EU is currently responsible for approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is looking to become a world leader in the transition towards climate neutrality – a state where the amount of emissions produced is equal to that sequestered [1]. A Clean Planet for All highlights how the EU can reduce its emissions and, in two of the eight scenarios outlined, have a climate neutral economy by 2050.

A Clean Planet for All is a leap toward a climate neutral economy but it does not intend to launch new policies, nor alter the 2030 climate & energy framework and targets that are already in place. Instead, it will use these targets as a baseline while simultaneously setting the direction of EU policies so that they align with the Paris Agreement’s temperature objectives, help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and improve the EU’s long-term prosperity and health.

What role did science play in the Clean Planet for All strategy?

Reports generated using climate research, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC, have been catalysts in national climate strategies and policies around the world. This is holds true for the EU’s A Clean Planet for All which features quotes and statistics from the IPCC’s 1.5ºC Report.

International treaties and targets set by organisations such as the United Nations also put pressure on national and regional governments to act and implement their own polices to reduce emissions. Many of these treaties and global targets are based on scientific reports that describe the current state of the world and give projections based on future scenarios. One of the most noteworthy examples of a global treaty is the Paris Agreement which was ratified by 181 counties in 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals are an example of global targets created using a breadth of scientific studies and that are a major consideration when national and local governments are creating policy.

More directly, A Clean Planet for All’s eight different scenarios and their likely outcomes required a huge amount of research and calculations – these scenarios are outlined in more detail below. External scientific input was also employed with scientists and other stakeholders given the opportunity to contribute to the proposal. An EU Public Consultation was open from 17 July until 9 October 2018 and received over 2800 responses. There was also a stakeholder event on 10-11 July 2018 that brought together stakeholders from research, business and the public to discuss the issues with the upcoming strategy.

The 7 strategic building block for a climate neutral economy

A Clean Planet for All outlines seven building blocks that will enable Europe to reduce emissions and build a climate neutral economy.

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Renewable energy
  3. Clean, safe and connected mobility
  4. Competitive industry and circular economy
  5. Infrastructure and interconnections
  6. Bio-economy and natural carbon sinks
  7. Carbon capture and storage

Figure 1: Achieving a climate neutral economy will require changes in all sectors. Source: EU Commission [3]

Scenarios toward climate neutrality

The Clean Planet for All strategy describes eight different scenarios or pathways that range from an 80% cut in emissions to net-zero emissions by 2050 (see Figure 2 below). Regardless of the scenario chosen, the Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, emphasised that the structure of the strategy will give member states a certain amount of flexibility to follow different paths. The eight options outlined in the strategy are “what if-scenarios”. They highlight what is likely to happen with a given combination of technologies and actions. While all eight scenarios will enable the EU to reduce emissions, only the last two (shown in the figure below) provide Europe with the opportunity to build a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

The first five scenarios all focus on initiatives which foster a transition towards a climate neutral economy with the extent that electrification, hydrogen, e-fuels and energy efficiency is implemented and the role that the circular economy will play, being the variable. The anticipated electricity consumption required in 2050 also differs depending on the option selected. The energy efficiency and circular economy options have a greater focus on reducing the energy demand rather than developing new sources of clean energy and therefore require the lowest increase in electricity generation (approximately 35% more by 2050 compared with today). Despite the differences, the first five scenarios will all only achieve 80 – 85% emission reductions by 2050 compared with 1990, 15% short of a climate neutral economy.

The sixth scenario combines the first five options but at lower levels and reaches an emissions reduction of up to 90%. The seventh and eighth scenarios are the only ones that could lead to net-zero emissions by 2050. The seventh option combines the first four options and negative emissions technology such as carbon capture and storage. The eighth scenario builds on the seventh with an additional focus on circular economy, encouraging less carbon intensive consumer choices and strengthened carbon sinks via land use changes.

Figure 2: Overview of A Clean Planet for All’s 8 different scenarios to a climate neutral economy [3]

What about the economic cost?

The EU has allocated approximately 20% of its overall 2014-2020 budget (over €206 billion) to climate change-related action. This covers areas such as research and innovation, energy efficiency, public transport, renewable energy, network infrastructure, just to name a few. To achieve a climate neutral economy by 2050, the EU has proposed to raise the share spent on climate-related action to 25% (€320 billion) for the 2021-2027 period.

This is a significant increase but it’s also a smart investment! Not only will it help the EU reach net-emissions but it’s also expected to lower energy bills, increase competitiveness and stimulate economic growth with an estimated GDP increase of up to 2% by 2050. It will also help to reduce the financial impacts of climate change such as damages from increased flooding, heatwaves and droughts. According to a study published in 2018 by the Joint Research Centre, 3ºC of warming (likely in a business-as-usual scenario), would cut Europe’s GDP by at least €240 billion annually by the end of the century. That estimate drops to €79 billion with 2ºC of warming.

Fighting for a climate neutral economy is is expected to have a net-positive impact on employment but of course, some sectors and regions will see job losses. However, the EU has already outlined programmes to manage this issue, such as the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). As Miguel Arias Cañete (Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy), states:

“Going climate neutral is necessary, possible and in Europe’s interest.”

What are the next steps?

The strategy and scenarios will be discussed at COP24 and may even provide inspiration for other countries to implement similar strategies. You can keep an eye on COP24 developments by streaming sessions via the UNFCCC live webcast and by using #COP24 on social media.

Although already adopted by the European Commission, A Clean Planet for All still needs input and approval from the European Council, the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee. According to the Paris Agreement, all 181 nations must submit their 2030 emissions targets by 2020 so it’s likely that comments from these committees will come in early 2019.

It’s likely that there will also be a number of stakeholder events in 2019, such as Citizens Dialogues that give scientists, businesses, non-governmental organisations and the public the opportunity to share their thoughts and be involved in the process. The EGU will provide updates on relevant opportunities as they arise. To receive these updates you can join the EGU’s database of expertise!

References and further reading

[1] A Clean Planet for all. A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy

[2] Questions and Answers: Long term strategy for Clean Planet for All 

[3] In-Depth Analysis in Support of The Commission Communication Com(2018) 773

New EU plan comes out fighting for ‘climate neutrality’ by 2050

Factsheet on the Long Term Strategy Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction

10 countries demand net-zero emission goal in new EU climate strategy

Imaggeo on Mondays: Watching the world from space with EarthKAM

Imaggeo on Mondays: Watching the world from space with EarthKAM

This photo was taken from the International Space Station (ISS), approx. 400 km above the Earth, in the NASA-led educational project Sally Ride EarthKAM (www.earthkam.org), Mission 58, April 2017. The image was requested by a team of 10th and 11th grade students from the National College of Computer Science, Piatra-Neamț, Romania, coordinated by me. The lenses used on the digital camera mounted on the ISS are 50 mm focal length. The area photographed is a region of 185.87 km wide and approx. 123.5 km long, from Utah, USA. The view is spectacular, a perfect equilibrium between mountains, canyons, lakes and bays.

It’s just one of the pictures that my students had the opportunity to get from the ISS. Even though we weren’t there on the ISS to trigger the camera, all the locations in which the photographs were taken were chosen by us, on the track of the ISS.

The project activities were very complex. The students learned about the Earth, its rotation and gravity, and about the space station and its orbit. They completed their knowledge of physics, understanding how from the ISS orbit we can have another perspective of the Earth. They chose the places on the Earth to be photographed, studied these regions and monitored the weather conditions for better photo opportunities. They identified the places on Google Earth, analysed the photos and then created QR codes for some of them.

Below are the QR codes for the photo “Awesome trip above the Earth”:

 

The ISS became an innovative learning environment for the students. The astronauts’ availability for engaging in educational programmes, sharing their extraordinary experiences of becoming aware of the beauty and fragility of the Earth from the ISS orbit, has increased the attractiveness of learning about space. As Sally Ride, the first American astronaut woman on the ISS, said:

“When I was orbiting Earth in the space shuttle, I could float over to a window and gaze down at the delicate white clouds, brilliant orange deserts, and sparkling blue water of the planet below. I could see the coral reefs in the oceans, fertile farmlands in the valleys, and twinkling city lights beneath the clouds. Even from space, it is obvious that Earth is a living planet.”

The photo was integrated into a photo exhibition called “The Earth’s Colors” that I realised with my students at my college, which led the viewer on a global trip, discovering how beautiful and fascinating the Earth viewed from Space is. Satellite photography offered my students a new world perspective, encouraging them to ask questions and to search for the answers. It was a new and exciting way to travel and discover our planet.

The project was a great opportunity, not only for my students but also for thousands of other students around the globe, to study the Earth in a way that complements different subjects in order to better understand our world. It also has strengthened my conviction that, as the teacher and Challenger astronaut Christa McAuliffe said:

“…space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there, and it’s everybody’s business to know about space.”

By Diana Cristina Bejan, physics teacher, The National College of Computer Science, Piatra-Neamț, Romania

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.

Mentoring programme at EGU 2019

Mentoring programme at EGU 2019

With more than 15,000 participants, 4,700 oral presentations, 11,000 posters and 1,400 PICO presentations, all under one roof, the EGU General Assembly can be an overwhelming experience. There is a network of corridors to navigate, as well as a wide range of workshops, splinter and townhall meetings to choose from. With that in mind, we’ve put in place some initiatives to make the experience of those joining us in Vienna for the 1st time a rewarding one.

Especially designed with novice conference attendees, students, and early career scientists in mind, our mentoring programme aims to facilitate new connections that may lead to long-term professional relationships within the Earth, planetary and space science communities. Mentees are matched with a senior scientist (mentor) to help them navigate the conference, network with conference attendees, and exchange feedback and ideas on professional activities and career development.

The EGU will match mentors and mentees prior to the conference, and is also organising meeting opportunities for those taking part in the mentoring programme.

In addition, mentoring pairs are encouraged to meet regularly throughout the week, and again at the end of the week, to make the most of the experience, as well as introduce each other to 3 to 5 fellow colleagues to facilitate the growth of each other’s network.

“Mentoring is an indispensable requirement for growth. Through the mentoring programme I was introduced to Dr Niels Hovius who was a generous mentor during EGU’17. His guidance during the conference enabled my interactions with prominent scientists and to navigate the conference to my maximum potential. I am grateful for this programme and hope it be fruitful for students in this coming year.”

Rheane da Silva (National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India), mentee

Mentoring an EGU novice student was the highlight of my 2017 General Assembly week. To see our elaborate and overwhelmingly large meeting through the eyes of a rookie makes you actively aware of many aspects that you have always taken for granted. To see the excitement in the eyes of a rookie when you take them deep into our organization and show them paths they had not expected to be open to them makes you appreciate all the General Assembly has to offer.

Niels Hovius (GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Germany), mentor

We anticipate the programme to be a rewarding experience for both mentees and mentors, so we encourage you to sign up by following the link to a short registration form. The details given in the questionnaire will enable us to match suitable pairs of mentors and mentees. The deadline for submissions is 31 January 2019.

You’ll find more details about the mentoring programme (including the requirements of the scheme) over on our website.

EGU 2019 will take place from 7 to 12 April 2019 in Vienna, Austria. For more information on the General Assembly, see the EGU 2019 website and follow us on Twitter (#EGU19 is the official conference hashtag) and Facebook.

GeoTalk: Sharing geoscience with kids and educators

GeoTalk: Sharing geoscience with kids and educators

GeoTalk interviews usually feature the work of early career researchers, but this month we deviate from the standard format to speak to Marina Drndarski, a biology teacher at the primary school Drinka Pavlović in Belgrade, Serbia. Marina has been involved with EGU’s geoscience education activities for more than five years; she is an active contributor to Planet Press articles, bitesize press releases for kids, parents and educators, and has participated in the Geosciences Information for Teachers (GIFT) workshops at the General Assembly.

Thanks for talking to us today! Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your career path?

Hi geoscientific people,

My name is Marina, and I teach biology and environmental studies in primary and secondary schools in Belgrade, Serbia.

As an experienced teacher I realised that it’s not only my priority to give lectures and assess my students’ knowledge inside the four walls of my classroom, but also to give them an opportunity to get out of the box: whether that’s involving them in projects, taking part in active citizenship, exploring, researching, debating, or searching for the most improbable and unexpected solutions to problems in everyday life.

During my 25 years of teaching, I worked as an expert for education quality standards governed by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Serbia. I have written several biology and environmental handbooks, workshops and teaching learning materials for students and teachers.

With my students I have participated in several national and international projects (such as the Global Designathon SerbiaEco Schools Serbia, the WWF European Schools For a Living Planet, Creating a School (on Mars) From Scratch, and the 2018 International Schools Essay Competition and Debate to name only a few). Meanwhile, I have also completed specialised academic studies on environmental protection and law at Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade.

After field work with Eco-Musketeers on Deliblato sands, one of the Special Nature Reserve in Serbia (Credit: Marina Drndarski)

Could you tell us about your involvement with EGU and how that has progressed over the years?

My first experience with the EGU GIFT workshops was at the 2014 General Assembly. First, I was fascinated by the huge crowds of the scientific community, rushing through the halls to be a part of The Face of the Earth (the 2014 conference theme). As part of the event, with colleagues from all around the world, I really enjoyed the inspirational lectures over four days. Although the GIFT program ended by the middle of the week, I stayed up to two more days, until the closing of the conference.

During the EGU GIFT 2014 poster sessions, I presented my work with my students, members of the Eco-Muskeeters, and enjoyed the experience of exchanging teaching methodology with other colleagues and visitors. Among the various activities and workshops that we had that year, I would single out Bárbara Ferreira’s (the EGU Media and Communications Manager) presentation about bitesize press releases for kids, Planet Press. After the presentation we were offered to participate in the translation of the Planet Press releases into our native tongues, which I immediately and wholeheartedly accepted.

After great experience participating in 2014, I searched for a new opportunity to participate again for EGU GIFT 2015, The Voyage through the Scales. This time I came with a new poster, Experiment-o-mania, and short oral presentation to GIFT participants on how I use Planet Press articles in my classes.

Although I normally do not teach geosciences, I have found many ways to use the Planet Press releases in teaching biology, especially in environmental science.

During the last few years I have translated all of the articles from English to Serbian. I can confess that I honestly enjoy in each of the new press releases.

In addition to helping review Planet Press articles, you also incorporate texts from Planet Press and GeoTalk into your own lessons! How do you use these articles to teach your students about Earth science?

Students are given different articles from Planet Press which deal with one topic, such as climate change or global warming. Each pair of students also has a piece paper in front of them, with the theme on the paper’s center. As the student pair read the received articles (two for each of them), they construct their maps.

After that, all together, we construct the class conceptual map and discuss and propose suggestions for how each of us can influence to environment based on the principles of sustainable development, such as reducing carbon emissions, saving energy and using water wisely.

At the end of the class, students take a climate change quiz on Kahoot (https://create.kahoot.it/; Planet Press) or Quizlet.

Writing a conclusion is an important part of any piece of writing, so for the next class the students write an essay overview to summarise the topic.

Example of the class conceptual map for climate change and global warming. (Credit: Marina Drndarski)

In your own experience, what have students gained from these kid-friendly posts and press releases?

Planet Press: Remove carbon dioxide from the air or risk young people’s future

In my opinion, most of the obligatory textbooks for elementary or secondary school have topics such as climate change, Earth’s structure, glaciers, landslides etc. that are explained too narratively.

Most of the main text are described as definitions which students have to learn as facts, without putting students in the center of learning, placing themselves in a position to explore the topic, perform a scientific procedure and make a discovery, demonstrate a known fact, solve problems, or suggest solutions which may be achievable.

On the contrary, all the articles from Planet Press and GeoTalk provide real examples of field research and show students that science is actually happening somewhere in the world. Most importantly for students, are that most of the articles often show how science can influence everyday life, and that there are possible solutions and recommendations for what we can do to relieve pressure on the planet.

Additionally the questions in the “Find out more” section provide me with an opportunity to develop discussions in class.

Also, the possibility that the articles can be read in a foreign language, for example in English or German (languages which are taught at my school), give students the opportunity to improve their language skills.

What is your advice for scientists that want to work with school kids?

First, it is important for students to understand that somewhere in the world a whole team of scientists zealously work to improve the living conditions of the planet. New findings can help us see the actual state of the planet and give us the big picture of what we need to see. That’s why the Planet Press releases can open new perspectives to students to explore more through the offered material and links or to find answers to some scientific questions, feeding their curiosity and helping them develop awareness regarding the problems which concern us all.

I would suggest one-hour live meetings with scientists and students, whether the scientists are directly addressing kids in the classroom or responding via the internet. Therefore, it is necessary to go over one scientific topic with the students before the meeting in order to allow the students enough time to prepare questions for discussion.

Also, students can be citizen scientists on research teams, and engage in mini projects, such as collecting information from local areas or visiting researchers in the field. Perhaps even some of the students can give new information to researchers!

I am deeply aware that many scientists suffer from lack of time, but this kind of learning can be really helpful for students.

Interview by Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer

Some of Marina’s representative publications over last few years

Miličić, D., Drndarski, M., Trajković J., Savić T., Lučić L., and Pavković-Lučić S. (2018). A matter of health: Evaluation of health habits in pupils in Primary School in Serbia; 4th Balkan Scientific Conference on Biology, Nov. 1st-3rd, 2017. Plovdiv, Bulgaria (in press).

Drndarski, M. and Turšijan, T. (2015). Application of case study method of the conceptual map (brain map) in the realization of the education program content of environmental protection (climate change). Book: Teacher as a researcher: examples of good practice, Ministry of education, science and technological development Republic of Serbia, p. 41-47 (usage the Planet Press articles to create conceptual maps about the climate change) ISBN 978-86-7452-064-2. (in Serbian) (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279195498_Nastavnik_kao_istrazivac_primeri_dobre_prakse)

Drndarski M. (2015). Experiment-о-mania – Abstract for the EGU General Assembly 2015 – Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 17, EGU2015-4692-1, 2015. EGU General Assembly 2015. © Author(s) 2015. CC Attribution 3.0 License.

Drndarski M., (2014). All for the Planet, Planet for All – Abstract for the EGU General Assembly 2014 – Geophysical Research Abstracts Vol. 16, EGU2014-PREVIEW, 2014 EGU General Assembly 2014 © Author(s) 2014. CC Attribution 3.0 License.

Miličić, D., Drndarski, M., Holod, A., Lazić, Z. (2014). Fibonacci and golden ratio in interdisciplinary teaching. Teaching Innovations, XXVII, 2014/4, str. 86–91. (http://scindeks.ceon.rs/Article.aspx?artid=0352-23341404086M&lang=en)