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In recent years, reducing carbon emissions has been an important goal for countries around the world. As it becomes more and more clear that most greenhouse gas emissions come from carbon-based fuels, there’s ever more pressure to develop better alternatives. A few countries, especially signatories to the Paris Agreement, are making big strides in this area. They include Canada, Germany, and France. Other countries, like the US, China, and the United Kingdom are lagging behind.

There are three basic ways that national governments are striving to meet the goal of zero-carbon energy. The first is that they want to optimize. This means being as energy-efficient and removing as much waste from the system as possible. The second strategy is to electrify when possible. A great example of this is seen with cars. Instead of internal combustion engines that run on gas, manufacturers are transitioning to electrics. The final part of the strategy is to fully decarbonize. This means seeking carbon-free sources of energy. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy are all carbon-free. So is nuclear energy, although it’s less popular for safety reasons.

Some countries and regions have an advantage when it comes to these strategies. For example, in Quebec, Canada, there is an enormous capacity to generate hydroelectric power. This power is used in markets like Montreal and New York. Countries like Ethiopia and Brazil also have notable hydroelectric resources. Investment in hydro continues to be an important part of the agenda for these countries. It’s a low-cost system to maintain compared to carbon-based fuels.

Countries like China have shown that development and electrification can go together. As China’s economy continues to mature, electric power is becoming more important there. Today, almost a quarter of China’s energy use is from electric sources, not the burning of fossil fuels like gas and oil. Finally, it’s important to note that countries have set measurable goals. Denmark, the UK, and Costa Rica are among the nations that have set a target of zero-carbon energy by the year 2050. By having a well-defined goal that’s easily measured, these countries have something concrete to aim for. This is expected to be a big motivator, and it’s hoped that other nations will adopt this strategy as a best practice.