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Net zero carbon economy: how industries are tackling decarbonisation

Written by James Townsend

The future of decarbonisation - engineered by AFRY

At AFRY we believe in creating a more sustainable future for all. That's why Engineered by AFRY is a powerful statement of purpose that guides every decision we make.

Black and white icons showing the 7 industries that AFRY works in: energy; manufacturing industry; telecom, ICT and defence; process industry; automotive and R&D;  food & life sciences; buildings; and transport infrastructure.

At AFRY we have identified decarbonisation, circularity, electrification and digitalisation as the four main drivers that can accelerate the transition towards a more sustainable society. But transformational actions are necessary throughout all industries to achieve a global net-zero scenario.

Decarbonising industry

The world is facing a global crisis as the effects of climate change continue to worsen each day. Policymakers, organisations, and industries around the world are tasked with taking action towards achieving a future net-zero carbon economy.

But what role do industries need to take towards achieving a net-zero carbon economy? Whilst the heaviest polluting industries face a significant challenge to decarbonise, there has been progress. A transformation is taking place and in this article we draw together insights, expertise and practical use cases to show what steps AFRY and our clients are making on the pathway towards net zero.

AFRY's role in accelerating decarbonisation

AFRY is a member of the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, which works together with actors across sectors and value chains all over the world to drive climate action forward. The Exponential Roadmap Initiative is an accredited partner of the United Nations’ Race To Zero, a global campaign to rally leadership and support from multiple stakeholders including businesses to reach net zero emissions. Find out about AFRY Climate Action.

Read on to explore how AFRY is working with clients across many industry sectors on a range of decarbonisation initiatives.

1. Energy & Power

The cost of renewables, such as solar power and wind power, is continuing to fall and making these economically competitive, compared with fossil fuels. But to achieve net zero, the industry will need to rapidly ramp up renewable, low-carbon power generation to meet the growing demand for clean electricity, as well as balancing power systems by building in flexibility to match demand with supply.

AFRY has decades of experience, as consultants, we advise policymakers, utilities, industry players, developers, financiers, and end-users to define appropriate actions during all stages of the energy transition. As engineers, we deliver innovative solutions to accelerate the sustainability transition. Read about our commitment to accelerating the energy transition.

In 2018, AFRY (as Pöyry) published its seminal study “Fully decarbonising Europe’s energy system by 2050”, which recognised and analysed the changes required to energy use in order to achieve full decarbonisation of Europe’s energy system by 2050. In 2020, AFRY and Iberdrola, a global leader in renewables, released a joint report identifying the key factors for the decarbonisation of the European energy sector by 2050. Rewatch the webinar 

The nuclear industry has been required to rethink and adapt to the increasing demand for safe, clean energy and to overcome the challenges of its large-scale projects. Could Small Modular Reactors be part of the solution? Read our insight article.

At AFRY, we believe that low-carbon and renewable hydrogen is key to achieving deep decarbonisation in the industrial, transport, heat and power sectors. Our consultants and engineers are at the forefront of the shift to clean energy, helping clients to realise innovative ground-breaking projects. Find out more: Hydrogen.

Whilst there is no unified vision of how to achieve net zero in the US, European leaders have set ambitious goals for fully decarbonising the energy system by 2050 and are actively analysing achievable pathways to meet this goal. In an effort to provide insights into how Europe could tackle the issue, the team at AFRY has conducted several multi-client studies, looking at various options for delivering a fully decarbonised US energy system.

Our experts regularly share their insights through our AFRY Insights magazine. Our clients value the range of energy webinars we produce. AFRY also produced a podcast series in which leading industry experts discuss how energy systems are responding to decarbonisation, digitalisation and decentralisation. Watch Fuelling the transition now.

2. Manufacturing Industry

Steel is produced in a furnace (powered by fossil fuels and using carbon as a raw material). Steel production causes around 7% 1  of global CO2 emissions, making it the largest single industrial greenhouse gas emission source. Demand for Green Steel (using alternative technologies) is on the rise, but this causes challenges including high costs, limited availability of technology and the need for a reliable supply chain of e.g. hydrogen generated by 100% renewables. Explore AFRY competences in Green Steel.

3. Process Industries

The mining sector is at the heart of the energy transition and growing at its fastest rate. The increasing dependency on raw materials such as lithium (for batteries) and copper (for electrification) means that for mining the big question is how to grow, but grow sustainably?

Wood production, carbon sequestration, biodiversity enhancement, recreation and ecosystem services are a few of the widely acknowledged functions that forests can provide, and the list is constantly expanding. Forestry is at the heart of AFRY and our many experts are supporting clients to reimagine forests in a net-zero world. Read our insight article on multifunctional forests.

4. Automotive and R&D

As governments around the world legislate for transitioning from ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, predicted sales of Electric Vehicles (EVs) are surging. This requires new supply chains and manufacturing of low-emission vehicles plus the infrastructure (charging / fueling stations). The industry is under a disruptive transition driven by technology trends for electrified, connected and autonomous vehicles, new business models for mobility as a service as well as digitalization of manufacturing for future industry. At AFRY, we meet these trends by offering design and engineering expertise for all automotive and mobility disciplines.

5. Food & Life Sciences

Livestock production contributes significantly (around 15% 2 ) to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet there are many exciting opportunities, from changes in animal feedstock through soil carbon sequestration and crop fertilization to the production of ‘future food’. Cultivated meat uses a fraction of the natural resources used by conventional meat and does not require the raising or slaughtering of animals - it would increase access to food and help alleviate world hunger. Read about AFRY initiatives in the world of Future Food.

6. Buildings

Future cities are climate neutral. They must be designed and operated without jeopardising future generations' access to nature and its resources. AFRY creates value by focusing on and strengthening the soul and identity of a city - all to shape the liveable cities of the future, where a good and healthy life is available to all. Explore AFRY Future Cities insights.  

7. Transport Infrastructure

Passenger cars caused 39% of global CO2 transport emissions with medium and heavy trucks as the secondary source (23%) 3 . At the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) in Glasgow, stakeholders collectively pledged to reach 100% zero emissions in transport by 2040. The WEF has stated that “the biggest hurdle remains the transition from talk to action”. AFRY supports the shift towards an electrified vehicle fleet and the demand is continuously growing for new concepts and variants. Discover our latest news, events and articles at AFRY Electromobility 

Industries worldwide play a vital role

Achieving a net-zero carbon economy may be humanity’s greatest challenge. Significant barriers include a lack of political support, the high costs of decarbonisation measures, and the associated risks in transitioning to cleaner energy systems.

Nevertheless, decarbonisation strategies are crucial to achieving a future net-zero carbon economy that is sustainable and resilient. By adopting effective strategies, taking concerted collaborative actions, accelerating investment, and directing scientific research and development, industries, partners, politicians, and suppliers such as AFRY can contribute significantly to tackling these barriers and achieving decarbonisation. Let us all take action towards achieving a sustainable future.

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Sustainability Engineering and Consulting Services

We support our clients in accelerating the transition towards a sustainable society. We do this by delivering sustainability services along the entire value chain of industry, energy, and infrastructure companies as well as the public sector.


  • 1. //www.iea.org/reports/iron-and-steel-technology-roadmap
  • 2. //www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/197623
  • 3. //www.statista.com/statistics/1185535/transport-carbon-dioxide-emissions-breakdown/