Two major successes against climate disruption
The harmful concentration in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by humans has been built up over 10 generations (250 years). The last two generations have achieved two successes.
– The danger is understood
By disrupting the climate, GHGs degrade the Earth’s ecosystem (gradual reduction in the efficiency of natural carbon sinks, unpredictable sudden increases: melting of the poles, acidification of the oceans…) and they degrade people’s lives (less efficient agriculture, health crises, sudden migrations, dykes, air conditioning…).
– The countries are mobilized
Each country has committed to stop the degradation as soon as possible by bringing the annual net emission of GHG below what the ecosystem can absorb. The countries of the European Union want to achieve this in one generation (2050): each country has drawn up its 2050 Trajectory, i.e. the necessary annual reductions in the carbon footprint of its demand.
The carbon footprint measures the GHGs added to or removed from the atmosphere by a human activity: we speak of the footprint of humanity, of a supply (what it took to produce it), or of a person, a company, a country (what its actions have added or removed in a certain period). The unit is the kilo of CO2 equivalent, which takes into account all greenhouse gases (or the million tons of CO2 equivalent or MtC).
France’s case shows that 2050 Trajectory assumes a complete break
Between 1995 and 2017 (the last year accurately estimated) the carbon footprint of French demand remained roughly stable: from 650 MtC to 633 MtC. The 2050 Trajectory targets a footprint reduced to 80 MtC in 2050, a level that could be absorbed by the ecosystem. This is indeed a major break.
The latest provisional estimate (2020) shows a clear drop to 552 MtC: it remains to be confirmed post Covid 19 and to achieve an additional drop of 16 MtC each of the remaining 30 years.
(sources Insee, Citepa, Eurostat, Customs)
WARNING There is a second way to calculate France’s carbon footprint, that of the Paris Agreement. GHGs are measured the same way, but the link with France is different: not who asks for the carbons (the French) but where they are emitted (in France). To move from the demand trajectory to the territory trajectory, we add the footprint of French exports (what is manufactured in France for the demand of other countries) and we remove the footprint of French imports (what is manufactured in other countries for the French demand). This territory footprint does not reflect the contribution of a country to the carbon footprint. It is lower and steadily decreasing because France has been relocating the production of the most carbon-intensive products for 30 years, mainly to Asia.
time plays against the quality of life of the following generations.
GHGs remain on average hundreds of years in the atmosphere. The quality of life of future generations will therefore inevitably suffer from a) the degradation we are already experiencing, b) from the inevitable degradation caused by the 2050 trajectory and c) from any delay in this trajectory. It is therefore each year that we must stick to the 2050 Trajectory, especially since each delay will burden the following years.
The first challenge is to trigger a swift general mobilization around the 2050 Trajectories.