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Becoming fossil-free can't wait

Society needs to change dramatically to meet the 1.5 degree target. The good news is that it presents huge opportunities for companies able to provide the solutions and products that the future needs. Andreas Johansson at RISE explains the benefits of jumping on the bandwagon early.

Global greenhouse gas emissions must be halved by 2030. If we are able to accomplish this, we have a chance to stay within the proposed 2 °C global temperature target, that is, that the increase in the Earth’s average temperature does not rise by more than two degrees, preferably no more than 1.5 degrees.

– “It’s not just about melting polar ice and sea level rise, but it’s linked to biodiversity, seasons and the ability to plan and implement food production,” says Andreas Johansson, Head of Research and Business Development in the Built Environment area at RISE.

“If we do not stay within this target, there is a very high risk of ecosystem collapse.”

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there is broad consensus that it is important to strive for and achieve a fossil-fuel free society, particularly now that the US re-entered the Paris Agreement in early 2021.

– “There is a very clear ambition and goal to achieve this,” says Johansson. “In turn, it means that businesses with the potential to contribute to the world reaching the target have great opportunities to be successful and competitive. But the opposite is also true: the less companies care about what’s happening around the corner, the closer they will be pushed to the edge.”

No one should be left behind

This does not mean that transition presents a winner-takes-all scenario. Both the UN and the EU are aiming to ensure that no one is left behind, that rich countries help those with fewer resources, and that major efforts are undertaken to help people at risk of losing their jobs as a result of structural changes. This is to prevent exclusion and disparities that will curb the pace of transition. The view that there is much to be gained from helping each other rather than pushing past each other also applies in trade and industry.

– “Achieving this goal requires new value chains, both in terms of technology and systems, and this is something that is difficult for individual operators to create themselves,” explains Johansson. “We need networks, we need arenas in which we can test comprehensively before things are scaled up – it takes courage to fail and trust is necessary for this collaboration to succeed. And that’s where RISE comes in, as a hub for collaboration.”

Achieving this goal requires new value chains, both in terms of technology and systems

Transition of production and consumption

At present, RISE is involved in multiple experiments, projects and studies, all of which have to do with building knowledge about smart paths to a fossil fuel-free society. And work is being carried out on both production transition and consumption transition.

– “Transitioning production so that we can eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from, for example, the agricultural and industrial sectors is one side of the coin. A great deal needs to be done to achieve sustainable production.”

But, according to Johansson, the really important thing is to also work with how we consume: we must change from having a linear mindset to a circular one, and we must create more sustainable business models:

– “Just look at the construction sector. We find it much easier to talk about and construct new buildings in smart ways than to find smart ways to make better use of existing buildings. Most of the square metres that already exist are empty for large parts of the day or week, and I believe that in order to achieve a sustainable society we need to look at both sustainable consumption and sustainable production at the same time.”

A myriad of roads to the future

What, then, can individual companies do to pull their weight? According to Johansson, there are myriad roads to the future, but he also points out that there is no ‘one size fits all’ model – what it comes down to is understanding one’s own situation and considering which pieces of the puzzle your company has or can move towards to obtain the world we want.

– “If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good time to stress-test your business model and think about how you can continue to be relevant to both customers and employees. And no matter the situation you are in, here at RISE we can serve as a good sounding board and guide. We have knowledge, networks and testbeds and can help with practical questions, analyses and competitive intelligence. I honestly believe that early commitment to this issue will mean being able to future-proof yourself, and we can help when you need to look at your business with a fresh pair of eyes,” concludes Andreas Johansson.

Published: 2021-06-16
Andreas Johansson

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Andreas Johansson

Forsknings- och affärsutvecklingschef, Samhällsbyggnad

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