Are we ready for our carbon detox?

A new year is the time for good resolutions and for both reflection on the past and aspirations for a better future. Five years after the signing of the Paris Agreements, the objectives set by the COP 21 are far from being reached: we are heading toward a global warming close to 3°, whereas we should reach a maximum of 1.5° in 2050 and halve our CO2 emissions by 2030. Although everyone is now fully aware of the urgency of the situation, actions remain slow to be implemented at all levels: consumption, businesses, cities, regions, governments. Yet time is running out.

2020 has been very singular in all respects and demonstrated to all humanity its own vulnerability. With the COVID pandemic, we have entered the era of global disasters. For the first time in our history, we have to live under the constraint of a virus. And our lives have considerably changed. The world has stopped its mad rush, and even registered a record with 7% reduction in fossil CO2 emissions (annual report of the Global Carbon Project published on December 2020). At the height of containment, these have even fallen to 17%, compared to 2019. But as Phillippe Ciais, a researcher in Climate Sciences, points out, this respite in carbon emissions will be temporary and "we can expect a rebound in 2021. The big question is whether the investments linked to the 'recovery package' will create a real increase in low-carbon energy".

One thing is certain, the obligations imposed on the various organizations, whether political, public or economic, will strengthen in the coming years. And we, as consumers, also have a full role to play. We are the children of oil who grew up in a carbon economy. All the products we use every day derive from oil, and it seems impossible to escape it. And yet, all the indicators warn us of an increasingly urgent need to radically change our lifestyles.

We must prepare ourselves for that and start our carbon detox. But why is this so difficult?

Neuroscience teaches us how our brains work in the face of addiction, especially a part of our brain – the striatum which sends us dopamine, and what resistances can block our individual behavioral changes. According to Dr. Sebastien Bohler: “Today everything is produced in an unlimited way, so our striatum can consume as much as it wants and the problem is that it has no stop function. So what can we do? "If the social norm values sobriety, altruism, sharing, slowlifestyle habits, then our striatum will give us pleasure in relation to that. But in order for it to become a social norm, it has to be valued, that is to say that the individuals who behave in this way are seen as the leaders of our society”. We need to move toward "a civilization of consciousness, which can look back on itself, and consider paths that have never been imagined". To that end, we must make greater use of another part of our brain, the cortex, which boosts our intelligence, creativity and consciousness.

Will we be able to value a society without carbon, a society of sobriety?

In 2020, we have learned to consume essentials and no longer have immediate access to so-called "non-essential" consumer goods. Let's hope that this year has at least left us a positive legacy, that of a collective and individual awareness.

To help us achieve this, we can also count on the formidable advances of today's technological innovations. Among the solutions of the future that will help decarbonize the world, in all areas - from energy to industry, transportation, agriculture, urban lifestyle, infrastructure... - is digital. 2020 has accelerated the digitalization of the economy and workplaces. COVID has imposed its reality and has had a catalytic effect in making leaders and decision-makers more aware of the measures to be taken to accelerate the decarbonization of activities. And digital can make a major contribution to this. Not only by first reducing its own electricity consumption and by using renewable energies. Thus, digital could reduce its carbon footprint by 80% because it is due in large part to computers, networks and data centers. It is also digital that will define the future standards of production and consumption, providing measurements and forecasts to assess and monitor carbon emissions. And digital will bring tomorrow, thanks to disruptive innovations allowed by the gigantic possibilities of Quantum computing, the possibility for example of finding new materials with which the energy suppliers will be able to bind the CO2 before it penetrates in the air. The fight against global warming is the greatest challenge facing humanity; it is certain that digital will play a major role by contributing with creative and disruptive solutions to decarbonization.

But let's not forget that we, as consumers, have a great responsibility with our choices. Individually we will have to combine our carbon detox with some digital detox. Become attentive to our uses, consume less bandwidth, adopt the right reflexes with our mailbox, switch off our devices...Each of us, at our own level, according to our possibilities, can act and contribute to collective change, with decisions that concern our usages, our mobility, our food, the products we buy, a reflection on what is necessary and what is superfluous in our daily lives, on less energetic gestures and habits. We are at the dawn of a new year.

The fight against global warming is the greatest challenge facing humanity; it is certain that digital will play a major role by contributing with creative and disruptive solutions to decarbonization.

Become aware of what we can change in our lives, and let´s start a the detox cure.

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About Catherine Briat
Head of Central Europe Marketing, Communications, Public Affairs – Head of CSR-Decarbonization global Communications

Born in France, Catherine studied at various Parisian universities including the Science Po Paris, and holds a Master’s Degree in international political science. She began her professional career as a consultant in international communications agencies. From 1997 Catherine Briat took on a number of management functions as communications director including at Eutelsat and Radio France. She was also chief of staff for the CEO of the RTL Group and has held various functions in the political environment. Catherine has been a diplomat for French foreign Affairs in Canada and Berlin since 2013, before taking up her position in 2019 at Atos.