Mapping the road to Exponential Climate Action

The Exponential Climate Action Roadmap pinpoints the next stages in the journey of climate action – from enabling societal CO2 emissions to peak by no later than 2020, to finding cross-societal solutions to then reduce them by half before 2030. Here, we break down the key highlights from the report and invite you to watch our insightful on-demand webinar.

Exponential Climate action roadmap
Pernilla Bergmark

Master Researcher focused on the sustainability impacts of ICT

In an ideal world we would already have a master plan for climate change. This plan would give us the directions, not only for where we should be and when, but also pointing out how to get there. In this world, governments would implement this plan with the same eagerness as the telecom industry when launching a new generation – every actor pushing itself beyond limits to be the first and best.

Well, this is not the case. And while the climate itself has started to send us ever stronger messages, there is a clear need to understand the overall decarbonization potential – not only in terms of reducing emissions, but in terms of concrete action and shifts in technologies and behaviors on our road to the zero-emission society.

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Watch the Exponential Climate Action Roadmap webinar on-demand today.

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The Exponential Climate Action Roadmap, launched during the Global Climate Action Summit by Cristiana Figueres, former executive secretary of UNFCCC, and Prof. Johan Rockström, co-director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), is one of the first attempts in this direction.

Making good on the promises of the Paris Agreement

Being among only a handful of projects and studies trying to outline the overall decarbonization pathway demanded by the Paris agreement, this report forms part of the new narrative to change our path. This report provides us with a high-level aggregated map to show us where we can and need to go over the next 12 years, and outlines the necessary actions to get society on track together with Project Drawdown´s '100 solutions to reverse global warming', the 'LED study' (which provided the input for Pathway 1 in the IPCC 1,5o report), the 'Solutions Project' (which outlines the path towards 100% renewables and electrification to halve emissions by 2030), and the 'UNEP Emissions Gap report'. Not least, it gives us the hope, which we need to turn climate insight into action. It can be done. The transformation to a decarbonized society is indeed possible – and we know in essence which technologies and behavioral patterns need to be replaced, and how. As an actionable transformation masterplan is missing, and as transformation needs be exponential and collaborative, the report sends the important message that exponential transformation is necessary and, indeed, achievable.

Scaling up technology for CO2 removal

Well before the consented voice of science of the IPCC's '1,5oC report', the concept of Carbon Law was introduced in Science by a team of international researchers led by Prof. Rockström, the then Head of the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC). Among them was Owen Gaffney, one of the lead-authors behind the Exponential Climate Action Roadmap. The most important contribution of that paper, which is well aligned with the IPCC report, is probably that it translates complicated climate science into an easy-to-understand rule of thumb: the global climate gas emissions need to peak by 2020 at the latest, and thereafter decline by 50 percent each decade. In addition, the world must aim to rapidly scale up technology for CO2 removal. But while halving every decade is an easy to understand concept, it corresponds to 7 percent annual reductions globally - a change of pace that demands the global society step up in an unprecedented way and, as this is an average, many need to move even faster. The beauty of the Carbon Law concept is that it is applicable and graspable at all levels: across nations, industries and individuals. All of us can show bold leadership.

The Exponential Climate Action Roadmap project has been established to investigate how, and even if, the first halving demanded by the Carbon Law could be achieved in the different sectors of society. It should also outline the trajectories to follow, the innovations that could help us to follow them, and the importance of policy frameworks, financing models and climate leadership to get us to decarbonize at sufficient speed and scale.

6.5% of global GDP rests on carbon subsidies

Ericsson has long been an advocate for the low-carbon society. Which is why we jumped at the opportunity to become a lead partner and industry voice in the roadmap project when asked to do so by Future Earth and Sitra , together with Internet of Planet, World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC), Mission 2020 and many others. While society´s focus is still to large extent on suppressing activities with high emissions, an equally strong focus on the solutions to replace them is essential. And while the state of the world leaves us with a bleak image of our future, and with climate mitigation often associated with sacrifices and moving backwards in time, the truth is that climate action generally comes with co-benefits in terms of health, achieved global development goals, increased security and independence - and with a huge business opportunity as today´s best technologies needs rapid scaling and new innovations needs to be brought to the market. Our study shows us that there is money around – currently 6.5% of global GDP is associated with direct and indirect carbon subsidies, while solar power is still competing with "wrong price on oil" – changing that should free up immense amounts of money for investments and change competitiveness of climate solutions.

Read the Exponential Climate Action Roadmap report in full.

The report shows clearly that there is no silver bullet – transformation is needed in all sectors - energy, industry, buildings, transports, food consumption, agriculture and forestry – but the thirty solutions needed remain manageable in numbers. The identified solutions rely on technology which is already available, while continuous innovation is important to maximize the outcome and enable the second and third halving. Another important insight is that socio-economic transformations are as important as technological ones to successfully mitigate climate change. This demands that society adopts a holistic perspective and kickstarts change by carefully considering policy, finance, playing fields and leadership. In this transformation journey, digital, circular and sharing approaches are important building blocks.

exponential action roadmap graphic

 

Ericsson has already reduced emissions by half – and is now focusing on the next 35%

As a company, having already achieved our first halving, and working to fulfill our 'Science Based Target' for 2022 corresponding to another 35% reduction, it is obvious to us that the ICT industry as a collective must work on its own footprint currently estimated to represent 1,4% of global emissions. However, the Exponential Climate Action Roadmap shows that the role our industry could play will outnumber the footprint by far. The digital transformation is described as the wild card in the transition, and how we leverage its potential can decide whether we end up in a 3oC or 1.5oC world. Digital technologies could already help reduce global carbon emissions by one-third of the 50% reduction required by 2030 – through solutions across energy, manufacturing, agriculture and land use, buildings, services, transportation and traffic management. This is greater than the current carbon footprints of EU and the US combined.

ICT footprint

 

Through the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution', particularly 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), we expect that this potential can increase substantially. Beyond this direct contribution to many of the transformative solutions, the sector can help to enable other solutions, and its far reach and potential can be used to impact everyday-life decisions by individuals and companies towards more sustainable practices. Moreover, the digital tools may help in enhancing policy processes, creating market places, connecting and educating climate leaders and monitoring how climate action and protection evolves. Technology is a tool that mirrors the society that uses it – framed for decarbonization it may turn out to be our greatest ally.

"The digital technology sector may be the most powerful in the world. The technology industry can influence whether global temperatures will increase by 1,5oC or 3oC. While the digital sector is on track to reduce its own emissions (representing just 1,4% of the global total), it is also in a unique position to influence other sectors" (Exponential Climate Action Roadmap)

Since the launch of the roadmap we have been overwhelmed by its reception through media coverage and also the thousands of downloads. However, since ideas are not worth anything unless they continue to spread and inspire action, we started this year by arranging a webinar to reach out to a broader group of climate actors. At the webinar where Prof. Rockström set the scene with regards to the state of the climate, the different chapter authors led by the roadmap initiators and lead authors Johan Falk and Owen Gaffney, gave an introduction to the roadmap. The webinar was an opportunity to highlight and share the findings and learnings of the report across a wide international audience, and introduces the next strategic steps. It was great to once more experience such a wide interest at all levels in accelerating decarbonization trajectories.

With the positive experience and feedback of the webinar kick-starting the year, we are now heading towards Exponential Roadmap 2.0 as part of the exponential roadmap initiative. The project aims to expand the high-level trajectories by developing industrial roadmaps for halving emissions, to perform deep dives into the digital acceleration and the circular solutions levers, and to promote high impact climate innovations. In this, we are happy to get new partners and contributors onboard.

We are facing one of the greatest challenges of all time. Our report shows us it´s actionable. However, to safeguard the climate, each of us is needed. Failure is not an option. Let´s all enter the Exponential Climate Action journey together, it's simply too late to wait.

Watch the Exponential Climate Action Roadmap webinar on-demand today.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Pernilla Bergmark
Pernilla Bergmark is a Master Researcher focused on the sustainability impacts of ICT.
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