Carbon neutrality, which scenarios for France in 2050?

Par Emile Poncelet, Esteban Leleu, Victor Rosenbaum, Julien Messner, Louis Noyer, Lyes Selmouni, Lucas Maitrugue, étudiants ESTA Belfort, 05/2022

Mots clés : #Carbonneutrality #Climate #EcologicalTransition #Energy #Greenhousegaseffects

What’s carbon neutrality and how to reach it?

Carbon neutrality refers to a balance between carbon emissions and carbon absorption from the atmosphere in carbon sinks. Carbon sequestration is the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it. All global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be offset by carbon sequestration in order to attain net zero emissions.

Forest fires, changes in land use, and logging all release carbon from natural sinks like forests into the atmosphere. To achieve climate neutrality, it is therefore critical to minimize carbon emissions.

Another strategy to cut emissions and achieve carbon neutrality is to reduce emissions in one sector by lowering emissions in another. This may be accomplished by putting money into renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other low-carbon technology. An example of a carbon offsetting mechanism is the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS). The carbon border adjustment system, which would impose carbon pricing on imported goods from nations with lower climate ambitions, is one example of an approach to cut emissions. This should deter corporations from shifting manufacturing out of the EU to a country with less rigorous greenhouse gas emission regulations. In 2021, the Commission should propose this carbon tax.

What are the goals?

The European Union is working on an ambitious climate policy. As part of the Green Deal, we want to be the first continent to reduce CO2 emissions generated by 2050.

In April 2021, the MEP agreed with the Council on the EU’s commitment to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

Currently, five EU countries have set climate-neutral goals by law. As Sweden wants to achieve net zero emissions by 2045, France wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

ADEME’s carbon neutrality scenarios for 2050

ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie) is a French public establishment of an industrial and commercial nature, founded in 1991 and placed under the supervision of the Ministries of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy and of Higher Education and Research. Its mission is to help implement public environmental and energy policies.

ADEME wished to submit to the debate four coherent « typical » paths that present, in a deliberately contrasting manner, economic, technical, and social options for achieving carbon neutrality in 2050. They are based on the same macroeconomic, demographic and climate change data (+2.1°C in 2100). However, they take different paths and correspond to different societal choices. In this article, we are mainly focusing on two of the four scenarios.

First scenario “Frugal Generation”

This first scenario consists of doing several changes in our way of living, especially travelling, heating up our homes, eat, buying and using equipment. Those changes will allow us to reach carbon neutrality without the implication of capture and/or storage of carbon technologies which are mostly unproven and uncertain on a large scale.

The scenario is the following:

New consumers’ expectations as well as new practices will appear in our ways of consuming. The growth of energy demand which takes all the resources and deteriorates the environment will stop thanks to evolution in our behaviour, organisation, and technology. The transition will mainly be powered by frugality thanks to sobriety and strain.

Respect of nature and adaptation to climate change

The whole idea revolves around the fact that nature is an entity considered as a sanctuary and that we as humans belong this sanctuary.

As an efficient way to adapt ourselves, part of the production system is based on low-tech (as opposed to high-tech) and small and medium-sized enterprises: technical systems and technologies, simplified and made more robust, are more controllable and repairable by citizens: thus, the sobriety of products and services makes it possible to better absorb direct climatic hazards or their socio-economic impacts. In other words, this is the end of planned obsolescence and overconsumption.

Bioeconomy, food, agriculture, forest and soils

There’s an in-depth transformation of our eating habits as well as reasonable management of the forest resources.

The evolution of farming systems (70% of production at very low input levels) follows that of diets, i.e., a threefold reduction in the quantity of meat with more extensive but fewer livestock. The consumption of exotic products is reduced.

The surface occupied by non-productive natural areas is thus significantly increased. The impact on ecosystems is reduced. Apart from food, methane and combustion are two important ways of using biomass, which is mainly agricultural. Sobriety in the use of wood materials (sawing, panels and buildings) makes it possible to satisfy needs with a collection of wood in the forest that has remained constant.

Development of land-buildings-mobility

On this point, the main objective is to massively reduce the number of new constructions and to favour the renovation of buildings.

In order to reduce the number of new buildings, the number of people per dwelling should be increased to 2.1, compared to 2 at present, and the number of second homes should be divided by 3. The main consequence of this is the reduction of building materials and the reduction of GHG emissions. Rural areas and medium-sized towns are favoured over large cities and metropolitan area.

Natural resources are now preferred; wood heating is developing, and the use of gas is decreasing.

Finally, we note that daily life in housing is evolving at a high speed. A decrease in the rate of equipment is to be expected as well as a mutualisation of the various household appliances.

This will result in electricity consumption for certain uses (household appliances, electronics, lighting) being divided by three by 2050.

Industry, materials and circular economy

A restrained industrial production with a significant focus on the “Made in France”. Material demand is decreasing significantly, in line with major changes in lifestyles: a 30% reduction in the surface area of new single-family homes compared to nowadays, a halving of the number of cars produced, a 70% reduction in the consumption of synthetic fertilisers per inhabitant, etc.

As a result, industrial production is declining in physical volume and activity is being transferred to other sectors. The production of certain sectors is relocated. The production system decarbonises mainly via biomass, to reach -53% of energy consumption and -79% of GHG emissions in 2050.

Decarbonised energy systems

Concerning the decarbonization of our energy systems,

Limit construction, implementing rapid and energetic renovations, pooling equipment at the scale of the living areas. These measures allow to divide by 3 the consumption of electricity

for specific uses (household appliances, electronics, lighting, etc.). If possible, the mitigation of a decrease in demand of mobility, increased proximity, increased carpooling as well as modernization of hitchhiking in rural areas, promote walking, cycling and public transport.

45% decrease in national freight traffic.

Moreover, as said before, promote the made in France, consuming locally and relocating our production sites would be essential and not negligible points to decarbonize our systems.

GHG and carbon sinks

Wood harvests are stable and only biological sinks (soil, forest, biomass) are mobilised. These are much more developed than they are today (80 MtCO²eq per year in the forest alone, 116 MtCO²eq in total, compared to 44 MtCO²eq of total natural net sink today), with modified agricultural practices and a significant growth of the forest maintained in extensive management.

The philosophy of this scenario is based on the sanctity of organisms and the reduction of consumption, which can be done without a technology sink, or even with a positive hedge in case of a negative impact on climate change. The net emissions balance is -42MtCO₂eq.

Second scenario “Regional Cooperation”

Within the context of shared governance and regional cooperation, society is altered. Non-governmental organizations, government institutions, the corporate sector, and civil society work together to keep the social fabric intact. To achieve this carbon neutrality, we will have to count on a sustainable path used by our society, mixing sobriety efficiency.

Adaptation to climate change

The climate change adaptation strategy is based on balanced governance at the national and regional levels: the national level coordinates and pools needs for investment in climate change adaptation from regional population centre and plans strategic resource stocks, whereas the regional or even sub-regional level continuously monitors natural resource pressure to adjust public and industry sector policies.

Ecological engineering approaches are being developed: ecosystem services are being incorporated into all infrastructure building and maintenance programs, and cities are becoming more ecologically oriented. Citizens are constructing ecological corridors by greening public and private locations. They are planning to adapt to climatic shocks as a group.

Bioeconomy-food-agriculture, forest-soils

The climate change adaptation strategy is based on balanced governance at the national and regional levels: the national level coordinates and pools needs for investment in climate change adaptation from regional population centers and plans strategic resource stocks, whereas the regional or even sub-regional level continuously monitors natural resource pressure to adjust public and industry sector policies.

Ecological engineering approaches are being developed: ecosystem services are being incorporated into all infrastructure building and maintenance programs, and cities are becoming more ecologically oriented. Citizens are constructing ecological corridors by greening public and private locations. They are planning to adapt to climatic shocks as a group.

Development of land-buildings-mobility

The climate change adaptation strategy is based on balanced governance at the national and regional levels: the national level coordinates and pools needs for investment in climate change adaptation from regional population centers and plans strategic resource stocks, whereas the regional or even sub-regional level continuously monitors natural resource pressure to adjust public and industry sector policies.

Ecological engineering approaches are being developed: ecosystem services are being incorporated into all infrastructure building and maintenance programs, and cities are becoming more ecologically oriented. Citizens are constructing ecological corridors by greening public and private locations. They are planning to adapt to climatic shocks as a group.

With the emergence of daily trains, freight cycles, folding bikes, velomobiles, mini-cars, carpooling, and huge electrification, demand for transportation is transitioning to a more local approach, supported by substantial targeted investments. As a result, automobile externalities are reduced (environmental impacts, congestion, sedentary lifestyles, etc.). Due to a fall in quantities and distances traversed, freight traffic is down 35% in ton-miles, with the proportion of rail and waterways more than tripling. Filling and efficiency optimization also decreases energy usage, which is becoming more diverse and adaptable to local resources. As a result, direct GHG emissions from the mobility sector have decreased by 95%.

Industry-materials-circular economy

A low-carbon industrial policy that promotes higher energy and material efficiency, regional specialization, and a circular economy is supported and funded by public planning. Recycling is well-developed, yet the overall amount of waste to be recycled has decreased as a result of the circular economy’s success. The need for recovered raw materials and energy, on the other hand, finds a happy medium, resulting in a high recovery rate (95%) and the virtual absence of landfills. In addition, in specific areas where manufacturing is decarbonised, a massive re-industrialisation effort (enhancing trade balances in terms of physical quantities) is underway. Nonetheless, owing to changes in demand, physical volume production in most areas decreases. In 2050, industry achieves a 47% decrease in energy usage and an 84% reduction in GHG emissions.

Decarbonised energy systems

This goal may be achieved using 3 mains energies. First, we would have to maintain our electricity at least as it is nowadays, in term of production per capita. Then, the hydrogen industry will have to evolve at until we could use it for some direct and indirect uses in society. Finally, our common gas consummation degreases as our demands of decarbonate gases increase.

GHG and carbon sinks

Carbon storage in soils due to favourable agricultural practices. Moderate levels of wood harvesting in forests, allowing the maintenance of a significant carbon sink in forestsCO2 capture and storage is deployed on a few processes with incompressible emissions (cement plants).

Conclusion

Those scenarios as different as they are each have their lot of limitations including some in commons such as the lack of benchmarks for various sectors that are not as mainstreams nowadays. Also, some scenarios have more scientific evidence backing up but as they juxtaposed it may seem that they are as likely to doable. Another point that wasn’t considered in the ADEME analysis is biodiversity as it’s not included in the report.

To conclude, the transition to carbon neutrality is far from easy but mandatory. As we saw there are several scenarios possible to reach this milestone, each of them has a different approach on the subject but in the end the objective is the same, preserve the environment and make life easier and durable. If you want to know more about the other scenarios, we suggest visiting « the other ADEME group’s article” (link in the sources).

Références

Ademe website. (2022). https://www.ademe.fr/ https://transitions2050.ademe.fr/en

What is carbon neutrality and how can it be achieved by 2050? | News | European Parliament. (2021, 24 Juin). European Parliament. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20190926STO62270/what-is-carbon-neutrality-and-how-can-it-be-achieved-by-2050

Ademe. (2015). Transition 2050 decide now act4 climate, https://librairie.ademe.fr/cadic/6739/transitions-2050-synthesis.pdf?modal=false

Rejoindre la conversation

23 commentaires

  1. This article was very interesting to read.
    The issue of carbon neutrality is a societal issue. However, I think it’s difficult to expect it by 2050. The different scenarios proposed are all rich and understandable, but how to choose the best one? Scenario number 1 seems the easiest to implement. Indeed, in a context of shared governance, many things change and this destabilizes and even impacts society. Whereas if we all act individually (individuals, companies, governments, etc.) the efforts will become collective. We need to change our lifestyles now in order to expect a significant change in 2050.
    Thank you for your point of view.

    J’aime

    1. Thank you Laura for taking time to read our article ! I’m glad you understood the spirit of our reflexion.

      J’aime

  2. At first, I think that your video is really nice ! A good rythm and a pleasant sense of humor !
    Concerning the article, I have a little question to go a little bit further if possible …
    What is your opinion about the fact that ADEME do not deals with the Biodiversity in their analysis ?
    Do you have an idea why ?
    Thanks for your answer guys !

    Aimé par 1 personne

  3. Obviously, we are not a part of ADEME. Regarding this, our answer is just a supposition. Biodiversity is endeed a really important point, but the changes that may happend in the biodiversity would be a consequence of carbon neutrality. Not a way to reach it. I think those scenarios are firstly here to really undertand how we can make our world better

    J’aime

  4. I found your article very interesting, but through your research, what do you think about the positioning of our president and the impact of his re-election? We can fear that during the next five years, France will not be 100% committed to the international objectives of lowering global temperatures.

    J’aime

    1. Thanks you Emile for you’re comment.

      Emmanuelle Macron has his own program. The ecological transition is a very complicated subject because it does not only involve France. His program is very interesting and he makes the ecological transition one of his priorities.

      I therefore believe that France will commit itself 100% to the international objectives of reducing global temperatures. However, it will not be able to do it alone. The whole world must commit.

      I hope I have answered your question.

      J’aime

    2. Hey!
      Thanks for your thought question :/

      I don’t think that President Mr. Macron only have ADEME scenario in mind and I don’t want to be political.
      But, from my understanding of politics, reelecting the same president twice in a row doesn’t seems too bad as it allows deeper and more meaningful changes to be made. If we had to put a name on France current president scenario, it seems to have similarities with the more public opinion friendly scenarios which are scenario 3 and 4 (presented in another article). Indeed, they offer a better quality of life as the two first scenarios that go for a more frugal way of living compare to hopping to develop new technologies to reduce our impact on the climate.
      So, I don’t think you should be afraid for your well being (for now at least) but you have to keep in mind that it is a bet and that we could lose this bet if we cannot achieve to develop the new technologies needed to slow the climate changes.

      Don’t forget to vote next weekend 😉

      KR Victor

      J’aime

  5. Your video was really nice and interesting. You find a nice way to present a difficult subject to vulgarize.
    My question is about ADEME and its scenarios. We know that biodiversity could be a game-changer for reaching the objectives of carbon neutrality. All of the scenarios are not possible to apply, and biodiversity may be a game changer.
    by the way, your video was really great 🙂

    J’aime

    1. Hey!

      Thanks for your nice comment ^^

      I’m really sorry, I would be happy to enlighten you about our article but I didn’t quite get your question, could you please rephrase it?

      KR Victor

      J’aime

  6. What an interesting article!
    Obviously, as said in the second scenario of ADEME our society is changing continuously. I do also think that our effort needs to be global in order to reach the carbonated there is a lot of interesting subjects covered in this scenario.
    Like the meat consumption reduction is something we will have to go through, it’s a measure that appears in all four scenarios and can represent a significant shift in our way of life.
    But, given that scenario 2 calls for a global effort by all communities, don’t you think it’s a shame that this ADEME report is mainly aimed at France?

    J’aime

    1. Hey!
      Thanks for your question 😊

      I think there is a lot about the fact that ADEME scenario is “only” about France.
      One could think that we French are arrogant and think of ourself as “la grande nation” (expression often used in EU circles to make fun of French) but I do think that it isn’t the reason why the ADEME scenario is redacted that way. Indeed, I think that ADEME is only speaking with an average French in mind in order to be easier to understand for the average French that will read the report (or at least they hope would read the report).

      If you want to expend ADEME scenarios to beyond French borders, it doesn’t seem that hard you would keep the end-goals but you would change the steps needed to reach those said goals. A future without all nations working towards similar goals doesn’t look bright and that’s the reason why I hope we could all agree as “earth citizen” to work in the same direction but I have to admit that it seems a bit utopic.

      I hope that I gave you a satisfying answer about my point of view on your question.

      KR Victor

      J’aime

  7. Your article is very interesting! The 2 scenarios are very well detailed point by point and the comparative table helps us to understand their differences.
    However, you don’t give your opinion on these scenarios. Do you have a viewpoint or a preference?
    Do you think that one of these scenarios can really become the future?

    J’aime

    1. Hey!

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

      We purposefully didn’t let our opinion show in this article as there is not only ADEME scenarios that exist and I don’t think there is even a right answer at this point that could convince the whole population.
      But, in my opinion, out of the 4 ADEME scenario, I hope that scenario 3 or 4 prevail on the other 2. Indeed, the two that we spoked about in our article aren’t as good in terms of quality of life for your average joe as you will need to be way more frugal.
      I hope that my answer will help you better understand the goal of our article (present existing scenario not judging whatever one is better than the other).

      KR Victor

      J’aime

  8. Thank you very much for this very interesting article. The scenarios you have explained are clearly understandable. In view of these different scenarios and to achieve the objectives, many changes must be made. Do you think that the measures currently taken will enable us to achieve these objectives? Is the pace at which we are moving enough ?

    J’aime

    1. HI Irem,

      I’m glad you liked the article.

      To answer your questions, this is just my opinion.
      The measures taken now are still far from the desired result. However, everyone now has these goals in mind. Everyone knows what is at stake, I think it is only a matter of time for some changes to take place.

      As for the pace, we are too slow. There are already some irreversible effects. For these, it’s too late. But we can speed things up to avoid more disasters.

      Finally, I think that the measures taken are in line with the expected results, which is a good start. Now the biggest challenge is to implement it as soon as possible.

      I hope I have answered your question.

      J’aime

  9. A really nice video and clear infographics on a topic that concerns all of us!
    I have a question concerning the fact that the ADEME did not include biodiversity in its report. In your opinion, what would it change in their report if they decided to take it into account?
    Thank you in advance for your answer and thank you again for the article.

    J’aime

    1. Hello Alexandre, I’m glad you enjoyed the video.

      ADEME does not look at the global situation of biodiversity. It also highlights the services it provides, and they are immense. Food, energy, materials, medicine, nature contributes directly to our existence in many areas. We have a duty to protect it.

      Human activity is the main reason for the destruction of biodiversity. For me, ADEME has not taken biodiversity into account for the sole reason that if the objectives set by ADEME are achieved, then biodiversity will simply be preserved.

      We must understand that we are the main actors in this transition; biodiversity may be a tool but it will never have a major role in this transition.

      I hope I have answered your questions.

      J’aime

  10. Hello guys
    Your article is very enriching! The 2 scenarios are very well described and it is easy to understand them step by step. The comparison table is a great help, it allows the reader to better understand the differences between these two scenarios.
    From my point of view, the second scenario seems to be the most feasible, it seems better in every way. Can you give me your opinion?

    P.S.: I loved your video ^^

    J’aime

    1. Hey!

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

      We purposefully didn’t let our opinion show in this article as there is not only ADEME scenarios that exist and I don’t think there is even a right answer at this point that could convince the whole population.
      But, in my opinion, out of the 4 ADEME scenario, I hope that scenario 3 or 4 prevail on the other 2. Indeed, the two that we spoked about in our article aren’t as good in terms of quality of life for your average joe as you will need to be way more frugal.
      I hope that my answer will help you better understand the goal of our article (present existing scenario not judging whatever one is better than the other).

      KR Victor

      (Yep, it’s the same answer than for Lucille question as they are identical)

      J’aime

  11. Thank you for your work and for this great video!
    Your article is well structured and very interesting!
    It is very complicated to choose between the two scenarios and are they feasible, as they all have their limitations.
    We can see in the article that the industry by 2050 should manage to reduce its energy consumption by 47% and its greenhouse gas emissions by 84%. But will all companies be able to keep up financially?

    J’aime

    1. Hey!

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

      I have two answers for your question:
      -Yes, I think that some company won’t be able to make the transition but I think that it will be quite seamless in the grand scheme of things.
      – A quote from John Kenneth Galbraith “The function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”

      KR Victor

      J’aime

  12. Hello,

    In your article which is very interesting, I will have a question to ask you about the number of second homes should be divided by 3 which is a very ambitious objective, there are currently housing taxes which exist to « fight » against this phenomenon which results from our society.

    Do you have an idea to be able to make this objective achievable because it seems to me a very difficult challenge!

    Thanks for your feedback

    J’aime

    1. Hello,

      I am not Stéphane Plaza, but I will try to enlighten you.

      Indeed housing taxes exist to « fight » against this phenomenon. Dividing the second network by 3 is a big challenge. To achieve it, we will have to rely on everyone’s good conscience. The government cannot prohibit this kind of practice.

      In my opinion, it is up to the population to limit itself.

      This is the only viable solution to face this challenge.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Aimé par 1 personne

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