Goal 2050: Net Zero Carbon
In the past, a lot has been discussed about the severity of climate change but less has been acted upon. With the 26th edition of the United Nations Climate Change Conference or what is commonly known as the COP26 taking place later in October 2021, several keynote speakers, environmentalists, senior personnel from top business conglomerates and consulting engineers have put forth their thoughts.
Amongst several issues, one of the key topics presented in the COP26 is to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2040. The campaign ‘Run to Zero’ initiated by the UN is the largest ever alliance committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Thousands of businesses, investors and public bodies have pledged their support to the campaign to see how carbon emissions can be brought down to zero in a few decades so as to solve one of the major issues pertaining to climate change.
Climate Change and its Impact
In 2014, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report indicating a rise in a rise in Greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. It stated that the Carbon Dioxide emission has been the highest in eight lakh years and that global warming has been at its peak in the last 1400 years. A 2018 report emphasizes that global warming has reached the tipping point. Such reports clearly indicate that all life forms have been facing the brunt of this already in the form of rising natural calamities. Cyclones, floods, draughts. volcanic eruptions etc. have become a common occurrence lately. Various international organizations and countries that have aimed to take actions on these issues. The European Green Deal aims to make European Union (EU) countries climate neutral. A number of multinational corporations have committed to reduce GHG emissions and have taken steps towards the same. The reason why engineering plays an important role in curtailing GHG emissions is because they can come up with unconventional methods which could have less emissions. Also, structural engineers, more specifically, are of importance because building and construction leads to huge CO2 emissions. The Green Building Council and Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) have taken various measures like coming up with such techniques that constructions will have 40% less embodied carbon by 2030 and by 2050 have zero embodied carbon. SEI aims to provide guidance to structural engineers to contribute towards zero carbon buildings by 2050.
Climate Friendly Initiative
Various professional firms have been taking initiatives to fight against climate change. The mission of architecture 2030 is to transform the built environment from the major contributor of greenhouse gases to a central solution for the problem and have committed to greater reduction.
There is also a SE 2050 initiative by the Structural Engineering Institute which inspires the engineers to contribute towards zero carbon buildings. LETI (London Energy Transformation Initiative) is a group of 1000 plus professionals from the industry who have written 2 booklets that can be a guide on making London carbon emission-free. UK engineering declared a climate biodiversity emergency focusing on changing how constructions are designed.
CEMBUREAU, a European cement association claims that zero carbon emissions can be achieved by acting on 5 value chains – Clinker; Cement; Concrete; Construction; Reconstruction. Namely focusing on energy efficiency in cement production, deploying Carbon Capture Use & Storage (CCUS) and using low carbon cement.
Operational & Embodied Carbon and how to reduce it
Operational carbon is the GHG emissions that happen due to the energy use in the building lifecycle. It can be also associated with the energy centric operations in the building like heating, cooling and light systems.
As a solution to the operational carbon in residential buildings, Mr. Kulkarni suggests using roof mounted PV panels in small scale residential buildings and for high rise buildings off-site renewable energy like solar panels and windmills can be used.
Embodied carbon is the emissions associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole lifecycle of a building or infrastructure which has been divided in 5 stages.
An effective way of reducing the embodied carbon is to assess it right during the initial design phase of the project, find the alternative designs for embodied carbon and choose the one with the lowest carbon.
Net Zero Carbon is the need of the hour. Green buildings are an essential part of the solution along with the focus on renewable energy which needs to be achieved by 2050 for a better and green future.