circular-economy, climate-change, sustainability · 3/22/2018

From Earth Hour to Zero Hour for fossils

Neste Corporation news 22 March 2018

At the very moment Earth Hour 2018 takes place, we will have approximately 18 years, 286 days, 3 hours, and 10 minutes left until we have exceeded our global carbon budget – at least if we trust the carbon countdown clock created by the Guardian. Yet global demand for fossil oil keeps on rising. What should we make of this? According to Lauri Kärnä, Senior Advisor at Neste, one thing is for certain – we should not wait for oil consumption to stop by itself.

Over a decade ago, The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

The world carbon budget is the allocated amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted before the Earth’s atmosphere rises by 2 degrees centigrade. Despite clear evidence of climate change accelerating and significant losses in biodiversity all around the world, globally the consumption of oil products rose by a tremendous rate in 2017 in comparison to previous years.

Will we ever be free of oil?

‟By the time carbon budget is reached, it will difficult to actually do anything about it”, says Lauri Kärnä. ‟We will not run out of oil. Instead, we must choose to stop using it. That is the simple answer. In different forms, hydrocarbons will be available to use for potentially several hundreds of years. Oil will continue to be extracted from the reserves until the price of oil becomes so high that people are forced to find alternatives.”

‟Crude oil, not just gas and diesel, will continue to be used for a long time. Transportation is expected to remain dependent on these fuels for decades. The transportation of large quantities of goods over great distances using electricity is still far away and for example cargo flights, the shipping industry, and heavy trucks will need liquid fuels for a long time still. Crude oil is of course also used as raw material for many products which are not burned, for example plastics.”

Working together is key

Lauri Kärnä continues: ‟It is not enough that one industry or one operator, a single nation, or one family makes a change. We all have to make a change. We cannot use electricity to pave roads or create oil-based products, such as mobile phones from it. Instead, we need to consider alternatives. For example, is there enough biomass on the planet to create an alternative to asphalt? Humankind is currently not yet able to understand the scale of just how much change is needed to combat climate change.”

Spending our budget

According to a recent article in the Guardian, at the current rate of consumption and production, we will spend the world's carbon budget in just 18 years.

‟To be honest, this seems somewhat pessimistic. But at least if we don’t do anything we really might spend our carbon budget in just 18 years. As our consumption continues to grow, we are also producing more oil from the ground and that will increase our carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, we must focus on solutions that lower carbon emissions. Ethanol and renewable diesel, especially when produced from molecules outside the food chain like waste and residues, provide us with one solution”, says Kärnä.

‟It is difficult for people to accept that they have to change their own behavior and make different choices to those that they have made in the past. This is about human nature. Whether we reach the carbon budget in 18 or 108 years, reaching this limit will have caused the Earth’s atmosphere to rise by 2 degrees centigrade. We already know what this will mean; for example extreme weather phenomena will become even more commonplace than they are today.”

Shifting gears for sustainability

During Earth Hour, and beyond, it is important for all of us to see what we could be doing differently to reduce our personal carbon footprint and make more sustainable decisions in our own lives.

‟The most effective way to make a change is to make informed decisions about our purchases, from plastic bags at the grocery store to flying long distances. If nothing changes, we will have to face the consequences. Taking long flights to tropical destinations is more affordable than ever, but few people stop to think about what this really means”, says Kärnä.

Airplanes emit hazardous particles and gases including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, lead, and black carbon. As air travel is growing at a massive rate, so have emissions from the sector skyrocketed.

Earth Hour is here

Earth Hour inspires millions of people to stand up for our planet and the environment. At Neste, we want to make clear the time to take action is now. We must take a proactive approach towards building a more sustainable future for ourselves and our children by reducing humankind’s dependence on crude oil based products and solutions.

“It is our responsibility to secure a functional society, also during times of transition that may take a long time. Politicians, the EU, and decision-makers around the world are responsible for enabling the transition to a lower carbon future. Neste supports the change by proudly offering low-carbon solutions, such as renewable diesel.”

‟People driving diesel cars could help the environment simply by using products like Neste MY Renewable Diesel in their cars. This is something I do myself, significantly reducing the emissions of my vehicle. But that is just me. We need everyone onboard”, summarizes Kärnä.

In the time it took you to read this article, the world has again spent about 230 000 tons of CO2eq from its carbon budget. It’s time to take a stand for our planet!

Further information: Lauri Kärnä, Senior Advisor, Neste, tel. +358 50 458 4345.

Neste in brief

Neste (NESTE, Nasdaq Helsinki) creates sustainable solutions for transport, business, and consumer needs. Our wide range of renewable products enable our customers to reduce climate emissions. We are the world's largest producer of renewable diesel refined from waste and residues, introducing renewable solutions also to the aviation and plastics industries. We are also a technologically advanced refiner of high-quality oil products. We want to be a reliable partner with widely valued expertise, research, and sustainable operations. In 2017, Neste's revenue stood at EUR 13.2 billion. In 2018, Neste placed 2nd on the Global 100 list of the most sustainable companies in the world. Read more: