VISIONARY POLICIES NEEDED TO MEET PARIS CLIMATE TARGETS
It is now clear that the outcome of the Paris climate talks was a game changer delivering a renewed global commitment to addressing climate change. No longer are we aiming to limit global warming to 2°C. We are now aspiring for well below that – perhaps as low as 1.5°C. In the post-COP21discussions, there has been a shift in thinking from ‘how much do we do?’to ‘how do we do so much?’
But the numbers are confronting.The targets set by the countries signing up to the Paris Agreement only put the world on a track towards about 3OC.We are already at 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere and on track to exceed 450 ppm.
Assuming that current and announced climate policies are implemented, the IEA forecasts that despite the extensive,world-wide government support for renewables and increasing energy efficiency, fossil fuels are expected to meet approximately 75% of primary energy demand in 2040; down marginally from the historic share of around 85%. Concurrently, energy access in developing countries is the path to improved living standards. It is from here that the vast majority of increased fossil fuel usage will come along with an associated lift in emissions unless there are fundamental changes in approach.
There can be no doubt that visionary,bold and innovative policy solutions are necessary. It will also not be enough to single out popular technologies for support – and hope they will do the job.That is the path the world has been on for at least the past 2 decades and today we are further away from our emission objective in absolute terms than we were those 20 years ago.
It is clear that renewables and energy efficiency are vital. Support for them must continue and their penetration scaled up massively from today’s base. But in the time available, this will not be enough.Industrial processes account for 25%of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency is relevant but the main –perhaps only – technology to address this problem is carbon capture and storage. Renewables offer very limited potential in this area. Yet there are few policies in the world to incentivise investment in CCS in industrial processes.
In power generation, the installed stock of fossil fuel plants is so great,much of it will not be retired in the next30 years. Additionally more than 2000new coal fired generators are planned for construction by 2030. Without CCS applied to these facilities there is little hope of achieving the Paris climate objectives.
The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report was clear that achieving the now base target of 2OC, was likely to be more than 130%more costly without the widespread deployment of CCS and that the majority of the models examined concluded it was un achievable without CCS. They are not alone. The Brookings Institution, the UK Committee on Climate Change and the Grantham Research Institute have all reported on the vital role of CCS in dealing with climate change.
The technologies to deal with climate change exist or are in development.We need them all and we need to keep developing them.Key among these is CCS:
• It is proven – 15 operating projects capturing and storing up to 28 million tonnes of CO2 every year attest to this;
• It has wide applicability with plants operating in natural gas processing,power generation, fertiliser manufacture, bio fuel production,hydrogen production and shortly steel making;
• It supports existing communities and economies with energy intensive and fossil fuel industries that must move toa low emission future; and
• It is safe as 20 years of the operation of the Sleipner storage field in Norway.
It is now urgent that Governments implement visionary policies to unlock the unprecedented amount of capital that is required to transform the global energy system while also allowing developing countries to meet their energy poverty challenge. This requires every very low and zero emission technology to be strongly encouraged with government policies that are enduring, reliable and efficient, allowing the business case to be made and for the investment to flow.Without this the Paris Agreement will be unachievable.