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Five years since the Paris Agreement

Everyone alive today can expect to witness big changes. The students we educate at KTH will manage the changes that climate challenges bring throughout their entire professional lives. They will work both to reduce emissions and adapt society to the climate changes that will happen even if we achieve the Paris Agreement targets. All sectors, industry, transport, housing, food supply, will be affected. Some more so, some less so.

The Paris Agreement was written almost exactly five years ago. Since then, emissions have continued and levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased. To stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and slow the rise in temperatures, carbon dioxide emissions need to come down to almost zero.

Dealing with the climate issue is a long-term undertaking. But it also means we need to act in the short-term. For every year we postpone cutting emissions, the more drastic the measures that will be needed further down the line. Globally, emissions need to be reduced by around 6-8 percent per year to be in line with the Paris Agreement. Many people argue that countries such as Sweden, that has already given off plenty of carbon dioxide emissions per person, ought to accept its responsibility and cut emissions faster so countries that have not released as much and that need to continue to build housing, industry and infrastructure can be given a bit more time to adjust. In which case, emissions need to be reduced by maybe 12-15 percent annually.

For a university such as KTH, this means we need to think in both the short and the long-term. The education we offer needs to prepare students for the changes that are going to happen. Our research needs to develop solutions in the form of new systems and products that are in line with the climate goals. And in our own organisation, we need to reduce emissions at least in line with the goals and undertakings of the rest of society.

This is also the background to the Climate Framework that we, together with Chalmers and other universities around the country adopted last year, and that most universities have signed up to. This means that we undertake to work in both the short and the long-term to be in line with national and international undertakings and goals. Chalmers and KTH also received an award from the International Sustainable Campus Network for this initiative. Almost exactly a year ago, KTH took decisions on climate goals and general measures that have both short-term goals (by 2020) and long-term goals (many of which extend to 2045). It is important that we now work with these goals, adhere firmly to the measures that have been resolved on and introduce new ones as and when necessary.

Tip of the week: I have written an article about what technology is needed to cut emissions to zero, in the Swedish weekly magazine Ny Teknik. Here is the link to the article: