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Our planet has evolved to heal itself through a natural process of photosynthesis and carbon sequestration. But earth’s natural mechanisms for self-healing are no match for man’s hyper-toxic industrial emissions that accelerate anthropogenic climate change. The Paris Climate Agreement and the recent COP26 Climate Conference have set ambitious goals for the reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with the ultimate goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and limiting the global increase in temperatures to 1.5oC. To reach these goals, immediate and coordinated action is required. While new technologies are being developed to help reach these goals using renewable energy, carbon sequestration from the atmosphere, etc. there are technologies and solutions that can be deployed immediately to reduce GHG emissions. The most effective solutions are market-based solutions that can be implemented without a large permanent public investment. However, these solutions will probably need public-private partnerships to accelerate their adoption to meet the GHG emissions reduction goals.

It has been well established that climate change is primarily driven by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions – human activity is causing long-term detrimental climate trends that will be very difficult or impossible to reverse. Therefore, for the past few decades, there has been a concerted international effort to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. However, these efforts have been largely ineffective. The concentration of atmospheric CO2 reached 414.7 ppm at the end of 2021, even though the reduction of CO2 emission in 2020 slowed down the rate of increase of the atmospheric CO2 concentration by about 0.18 ppm (Global Carbon Budget, 2021). The atmospheric CO2 growth amounted to around 47% of total CO2 emissions during the last decade with the rest absorbed by CO2 sinks (land absorbs around 28% and ocean around 25% of total emissions).

After a decrease of around 5.4% in global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, induced by lockdowns and interruptions in global trade and travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the emissions have bounced back in 2021 to values close to pre-pandemic levels (Global Carbon Budget, 2021). The decrease in 2020 was 1.9 GtCO2/yr, for around 34.8 GtCO2/yr, comparable to the 2012 emissions level; however, the total emissions in 2021 were around 36.4 GtCO2/yr, compared to 36.7 GtCO2/yr in 2019.

This can be attributed mostly to the increased demand for energy, with emissions from coal and gas increasing above 2019 levels (mainly caused by electricity production), while emissions from oil remained below their 2019 level due to lower demand for global transport and travel.
On the national level, the increase is driven by the developing countries: emissions in China were higher by 5.5% compared to 2019 levels, reaching 11.1 GtCO2/yr; India exhibited 4.4% higher emissions, reaching 2.7 GtCO2/yr (Global Carbon Budget, 2021). On the other hand, the 2021 emissions in the United States (5.1 GtCO2/yr), the European Union (2.8 GtCO2/yr), and the rest of the world (14.8 GtCO2/yr in total) remain 3.7%, 4.2%, and 4.2% lower than respective 2019 levels.

The carbon budget is an estimated total amount of global emissions that has a 50% likelihood to limit global warming to a particular level – levels usually considered are 1.5°C, 1.7°C, and 2°C increase in average global temperatures. At the start of 2022, the estimated remaining carbon budget has shrunk to 420, 770, and 1270 GtCO2, for a global temperature increase of 1.5°C, 1.7°C, and 2°C, respectively (Global Carbon Budget, 2021). This is equivalent to 11, 20, and 32 years of emissions at the 2021 level, respectively. Total anthropogenic emissions were 38.0 GtCO2/yr in 2020, and 39.4 GtCO2/yr in 2021. To reach net zero emissions by 2050, we must cut about 1.4 GtCO2 per year on average, which is the difference between 2020 and 2021 emissions. This highlights the magnitude of the task at hand and the urgency of immediate action.



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