Manuel Macedo
President
Honeywell Latin America
/
Expert Contributor

What Tech Will Help Achieve Carbon Neutrality, Sustainability?

By Manuel Macedo | Tue, 07/26/2022 - 17:00

It has been seven years since the Paris Agreement, often referred to as the Paris Accords or the Paris Climate Accords – an international treaty on climate change in which world leaders committed to keep the rise in mean global temperatures to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F), and to invest in technologies that help achieve these goals by the middle of the 21st century.

How much progress have we made since then? Some of the solutions that have been developed in recent years have challenged the imagination, innovative spirit and creativity of companies, industries, and entrepreneurs.

Some of the more ingenious solutions developed are those involving emerging technologies in specific sectors targeted as the main generators of carbon dioxide and methane emissions, such as energy, industrial, mobility, construction, agriculture and waste[1].

Industry leaders within these segments are prioritizing sustainability in their business strategies, focusing their research and development efforts and resources to create innovations that decrease environmental impact. We can group these solutions in three major technology solution groups with relevant contributions to the de-carbonization targets.

Carbon Capture

Carbon capture, utilization and storage is a key technology for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, carbon capture capacity must increase more than 20 times to enable capture of 840 million metric tons per year of CO2 by 2030 to meet global emission goals[2].

Incorporating carbon capture technologies into production is an effective path industrial companies can take to reduce their environmental impact and prevent harmful emissions from entering the atmosphere. But carbon capture is a broad and complex field, requiring in-depth knowledge of both the technology and industry to effectively execute.

Industries such as power, steel, and cement, have also adopted a decarbonization strategy that allows CO2 storage and sequestration. For a typical power plant (650W capacity), applying carbon-capture technology can capture 3.4 million tons of CO2 annually, equivalent to removing nearly 735,000 cars from the road each year[3].

Meanwhile, there are also efforts directed toward renewable fuels, with processes capable of transforming vegetal oil, animal fat and even cooking oil into green diesel and sustainable aviation fuel. This type of renewable fuel generates 85 percent less greenhouse emissions compared to conventional fuel, not to mention that it can also be used in any vehicle or diesel engine as a replacement without any modifications required.

Additionally, hydrogen is the most abundant, simplest, and lightest element in the universe and is potentially a significant carrier of clean, safe, and sustainable energy. When produced through sustainable processes, hydrogen does not emit greenhouse gases, such as CO2 or methane[4]. Furthermore, hydrogen’s ubiquity in industrial processes and its suitability as a fuel for a wide range of applications makes it ideal for widespread adoption.

These characteristics make hydrogen a promising green alternative for emerging energy systems seeking to be more sustainable. This is determined for countries like Mexico, vulnerable to climate change, where the national average temperature increases by 0.85 °C and 1.3 °C during winter[5]. Reducing carbon emissions through hydrogen production is a viable and affordable solution for many companies seeking to advance their environmental and sustainability goals.

Based on the Kigali’s agreements[6], refrigerants play a major role in seeking a solution toward carbon neutrality with the switch to HFOs (hydrofluoro-olefins). Supermarket and retail chains are implementing this switch – an example to follow in the quest to reduce our impact on the planet. These fourth-gen solutions of fluorinated materials that are used as refrigerants, blowing agents and solvents have low global warming potential and are non-ozone-depleting as compared to HFCs, which are being phased out[7].

Circular Economy

Plastics play an important role in our society, including expanding the shelf life of food and making vehicles lighter, which reduces their emissions. Unfortunately, only a fraction of plastics today can be successfully recycled.

There are technologies and processes today that expand the types of plastics that can be recycled and can produce feedstock used to make recycled plastics with a lower carbon footprint. The new technology can reduce the need for fossil fuels in the creation of virgin plastics while enabling other cycles of recycling, with the goal of enabling a circular economy for plastics.

Sustainable Buildings

One of the industries with a high environmental impact is construction, and since commercial buildings represent 37 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions[8], it is imperative to find energy savings within the built environment and help the world achieve carbon reduction commitments to act on climate change.

But we need to work faster. Fortunately, solutions exist today whereby deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning in building control systems can drive energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction and help achieve carbon neutrality goals.

Of course, buildings ultimately need to provide a healthy experience for occupants as well, so technologies must continuously balance building systems like heating, air conditioning, lighting, and elevators, based on space usage to achieve energy savings while maintaining healthy spaces.

Collaboration Is Key

In the end, the road to a more conscious and sustainable world is an imperative for everyone who strives to reduce their impact on the climate. Actions, investments and collaborations between organizations, individuals and nations are key to achieving our goals.

In the coming years, we will see innovations in industries like food, which generates 26 percent of global greenhouse emissions[9] and consumes a considerable part of water resources.

Likewise, this change will also affect other industries such as fashion and lifestyle where the battle to capture consumers who are already more environmentally conscious will intensify as they seek more options in the form of sustainable garments, electric vehicles, sustainable packaging, and paperwork and document digitalization.

Additionally, we will see increasing government legislation compelling companies to disclose publicly the environmental risks they generate.

These and many more changes are to be expected because, according to the latest data from the World Meteorological Organization[10], we now have a 50:50 chance of reaching the infamous cypher of 1.5°C annual rise in temperature within the next five years and the odds are getting increasingly higher with time.

Climate change keeps moving forward and our efforts to reverse it should double up.

 

[1] McKinsey & Company – The Net-Zero Transition link

[2] https://www.iea.org/reports/ccus-in-clean-energy-transitions/ccus-in-the-transition-to-net-zero-emissions

[3] Honeywell: link

[4] https://www.iberdrola.com/sostenibilidad/hidrogeno-verde

[5] CEDRSSA. 2020. Impacts of climate change in Mexico. link

[6] https://www.iea.org/reports/cooling-emissions-and-policy-synthesis-report

[7] https://www.honeywell.com/us/en/press/2021/10/honeywell-solstice-low-global-warming-potential-technology-reduces-global-greenhouse-gas-emissions

[8] Mckinsey & Company: link

[9] Our World In Data: link

[10] World Meteorological Organization: link

Photo by:   Manuel Macedo