Decarbonisation is about reducing carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions resulting from human activity, with the eventual goal of eliminating them.

The conversion to an economic system that sustainably reduces and compensates these emissions will result in a CO₂-free global economy, that ceases to introduce carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and begins to redress the causes of climate change.

No matter which industry you’re in, it is essential that we account for our carbon footprint through the complete life cycle from extraction and use of raw materials to production and ultimately recycling. Businesses, governments, and organisations large and small have committed to reducing their carbon footprint, but while progress is being made at all levels, estimates suggest that we are not on track to meet the Paris targets and more must be done.

Decarbonisation in action

Decarbonisation at the global scale is a huge undertaking, requiring a highly integrated approach – particularly if we’re to avoid reintroducing CO2 emissions by displacing them from one part of the economy to another. Certain industries have greater transitional challenges, these are known as the ‘harder to abate’ sectors. These face issues related to long asset lifespans, where legacy equipment is expensive to redevelop and replace, high energy dependency, and the complexity of electrification. Together, these sectors account for 32% of global carbon emissions.

To accelerate decarbonisation, we need to develop and use of fundamentally different energy systems, moving away from hydrocarbons in favour of renewable sources of power, like solar, wind, biofuels and hydrogen. But energy transition, though vital, is only part of the story.

Decarbonisation isn’t just a technological challenge. We also have to adopt and encourage new market behaviours and preferences, use policy to drive innovation, and find sources of investment and financing for this major transition. As new technologies come onstream, business and government need to accelerate progress toward a low carbon future, with new financing mechanisms that bring sustainable innovations to the widest number of users globally.

The goal of decarbonisation is reshaping the business landscape across the planet, from individual businesses to global corporations. To achieve our low-carbon targets, businesses and their employees will have to embrace a cocktail of different strategies, from power generation and use to sustainable development in line with the circular economy, and these efforts will require innovative business ideas, a cultural mind shift, and adaptation to new technologies and ways of working. Our business models cannot simply be commercial and financial, but embrace sustainability goals too.

Decarbonisation is already reshaping investment strategies, business development and operations, and the next generation’s ways of working. The world mostly shares net zero goals – the challenge is how to decarbonise at pace and scale.