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Europe's carbon footprint reduction: a primer

06/09/2022

Europe's carbon footprint reduction: a primer

The European Union has set an ambitious goal of achieving zero carbon by 2050. To achieve this, a European Green Deal has been put in place to support the European ecological transition through a series of measures involving many sectors from food to transport, energy, consumer goods and services. We asked Simon Létourneau, co-director of French personal carbon footprint control solution Carbo, to share his thoughts on this vast subject. 

Carbon footprint: the European transformation’s pillar sectors

The challenges currently brought about by carbon neutrality are a matter for all sectors. Létourneau created Carbo to help companies from all horizons deal with the topic, and empower them to manage their carbon footprint: “This subject has traditionally been the domain of experts. For the past few years, we have seen a definite democratization of these issues, particularly because of the urgency of the situation. That’s why businesses have an important role to play, because they are the ones who drive change.”  

 Of course, there are sectors that pollute more than others, and thus should be the object of more targeted efforts, such as transportation. Companies have a number of tools at their disposal to reduce these, such as analyzing their supply chain and buying from more local producers. Individuals can also take action by changing their travel habits and turning to practices such as slow travel.

According to Simon Létourneau, “with the notion of carbon footprint, we’re dealing with a quantifiable object – we can set targets and monitor them. It’s similar to the financial objectives of companies. This mission of calculating and reducing one’s carbon footprint can be achieved via technology, data. It’s important that this data is put to use in the service of a more ecological goal.”

These measurements allow us to establish a European ranking of the countries that emit the largest quantities of greenhouse gasses. At the top of the list are Germany (839.7 MtCO2e), France (454.8 Mt), Italy (430.7 Mt) and Poland (393.9 Mt). Spain comes in fifth with 333.6 Mt2.

European legislation: but how do we concretely achieve zero-carbon?

Legislative actions have been put in place at the European level: the European Green Deal was introduced by the Commission in December 2019 to push the European transformation towards a more modern, more just society. This pact emphasizes the importance of across-the-board actions meant to achieve this sustainable transition, such as “Fit for 55” – a legislative package of interconnected measures across 10 sectors (including energy, transport and fuels) that works in tandem with the Green Deal to achieve the zero-carbon target by 2050.  

Besides the need to anticipate these measures, Létourneau has identified five levers that might motivate companies to have a look into their carbon footprint:  

  1. Gaining customers 
  2. Benefiting from impact loans 
  3. Attracting talent 
  4. Being awarded labels 
  5. Offering an environmentally conscious workplace.  

How can companies manage the zero-carbon environmental paradigm shift?

To fight against greenhouse gas emissions and reduce carbon footprints, several measures will be implemented in the coming years on the business side. For example, several deputies have voted for amendments in favor of a reduced VAT for low-carbon products: the environmental VAT.

Yet, Simon Létourneau believes that the key to success is primarily educational in nature: “We educate companies so that people can reduce their carbon footprint on their own. It is better to explain, to encourage action, rather than to take action on behalf of the different stakeholders if we want to transform society for good. To be sustainable, change must therefore be motivated by a desire to do better, and not just to comply with legislative criteria.”