Back for his third Sustainability LIVE, Steve Smith, Head of Global Marketing at Schneider Electric, opened the first day of the event with his keynote presentation titled ‘The Fastest Path to Net Zero’.
Smith is responsible for communications and thought leadership around energy management at Schneider Electric, the world’s most sustainable company, which provides energy and automation digital solutions for efficiency and sustainability.
His previous talks at Sustainability Live have been some of the top speaker sessions, bringing insight surrounding sustainability strategy to sustainability leaders from some of the world’s top companies.
Smith’s keynote presentation, The Fastest Path to Net Zero, discussed three key questions:
- Where are we?
- What do we need to be doing?
- Where do we need to accelerate?
Energy is the key to the climate crisis
“We are at the moment at an inflection point, between a short term energy crisis and a long term energy crisis, and dealing with climate crisis and an energy crisis at the same time,” Smith says.
“How do we tackle the climate crisis? Decarbonisation.
“We started to get exponential carbon growth around the late 1800s, to a point today where carbon in the atmosphere is higher than it's been on Earth for about 2 million years. Left unabated, we know we would be on a pathway to something like 4 to 6 degrees change in climate by the end of the century. Now, fortunately, we're on a 2.5 degree pathway with current commitments. So we are making progress but we need to go much, much faster than that. If we need to be on the target for 1.5 degree change by the end of the century:
- We need to reach net zero by 2050
- We need to be halving emissions by the end of this decade
- We are looking at saving something like four gigatonnes of carbon by the end of this decade when we need to be saving 10 to 15 — we need to be going three times faster than we are today
The solution for both the energy and climate crises is energy.”
There are three key levers to decarbonise energy:
- Electrify — removing the need for fossil fuels by electrifying everything including transport, utilities and industry. In order to reduce pressure on the grid, digitisation is key.
- Reduce — 60% of energy that's created is either lost or wasted, so reduction in energy use is a priority for today. Digitisation also plays a part in reduction, as deploying more efficiently reduces usage.
- Replace — transition to clean energy through offsite renewables purchasing (PPAs) and onsite renewables generation (solar, microgrid, storage).
What is causing climate change?
“We know that greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of climate change — gases, nitrous oxide, methane. But more than three quarters is carbon dioxide, which is why decarbonisation is so critical.”
More than 80% of that carbon comes directly or indirectly from energy, the demand for which is coming from just three sectors:
“Commitments are one thing, but they're meaningless unless they're followed through with action”
Schneider Electric spoke to over 500 C-suite executives from global companies with a turnover of more than US$1bn, and asked what the biggest challenges that large companies are seeing when trying to decarbonise:
- Stakeholder alignment — where do you start? Who is needed on the journey? How do you get everybody on the same page?
- Data collection, reporting, transparency — where do you begin to understand not just your energy but your carbon emissions? How do you understand the carbon emissions of your supply chain?
- Budget, financing – “The thing I love about investing in green tech is it's quite unique that you're not investing in a cost, you're investing in a saving,” Steve said. “The sooner you do it as a corporation, the sooner you start to reap the rewards.”
- Technology, workforce skills — working with partners and sharing expert knowledge is essential
- CO2 science understanding
- Roadmap execution — strategy, prioritisation and planning
Schneider Electric found that leading companies are following an integrated approach — strategising, digitising and decarbonising.
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