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What does carbon zero energy transition mean?

We discuss what makes an energy source renewable and why this is important for the transition to Carbon Zero or Carbon Neutral future.
A power station in the United States

When governments and others talk about Energy Transition today, partly what they are referring to is the change from fossil fuels, which release carbon into the atmosphere, to non-carbon emitting sources. Many of those non-carbon sources are also renewable.

Renewable energies are replenished naturally. This renewal occurs within a relatively short timeframe, not long geological timeframes. For example, solar power, wind power, and hydropower can never be ‘used up’ – they will be constantly available as a global resource.

A forest. The trees have no leaves and there are several piles of chopped wood on the ground. Image by Yves Bernardi from Pixabay

Biomass energy comes mainly from plant-based sources (wood, crops, sources from industrial and household waste etc.). This can be renewable if it is replaced quickly to maintain the supply. For example, wood can be regrown. But biomass energy has to be carefully managed to be renewable. Biomass energy also releases carbon into the atmosphere.

It is clear that renewable energy sources that release no carbon will be very important in preventing further human-induced climate change.

When we talk about a Carbon Zero transition, it means that no carbon is released into the atmosphere from human energy sources.

When we talk about a Carbon Neutral transition, we mean that although carbon dioxide may be released into the atmosphere from our energy sources, other activities offset these emissions. The result is a neutral impact.

It is obvious that none of this can be achieved without significant technological developments. But how ‘green’ are the technologies that might help us to achieve a Carbon Zero or Carbon Neutral energy transition? This is what we will discuss shortly.

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Global Inequalities and the Just Transition

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