Technology not Negotiations will Lead us to Deep Decarbonisation of our Global Economy


(E) Professor Jeffrey Sachs, leading authority (and one of my favorite teachers) in sustainable development has published a new article on climate change negotiations, which have failed miserably so far to lower our carbon emissions: “The Limits of Climate Negotiations”. He recently led also a report on the decarbonization of our global economy for the United Nations: “The Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project”.

Continued investments in new sustainable technologies are key to our worldwide road map to save our planet, in particular:

  • Storage of intermittent wind and solar power

  • Carbon capture and storage (CCS)

  • Electrification of low-carbon vehicles

  • Low-carbon heating, cooling, and ventilation of residential and commercial buildings

  • Fourth-generation nuclear energy

  • Advanced biofuels for aviation and freight

  • Electrification of process heating in various industrial sectors

The Limits of Climate Negotiations

If the world is to solve the climate-change crisis, we will need a new approach. Currently, the major powers view climate change as a negotiation over who will reduce their CO2 emissions (mainly from the use of coal, oil, and gas). Each agrees to small “contributions” of emission reduction, trying to nudge the other countries to do more. The United States, for example, will “concede” a little bit of CO2 reduction if China will do the same.

For two decades, we have been trapped in this minimalist and incremental mindset, which is wrong in two key ways. First, it is not working: CO2 emissions are rising, not falling. The global oil industry is having a field day – fracking, drilling, exploring in the Arctic, gasifying coal, and building new liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. The world is wrecking the climate and food-supply systems at a breakneck pace.

Read the full article @ Project Syndicate.”

How to Decarbonise the Global Economy?

“The report, produced by the Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project which is overseen by the UN Sustainable Development Network, describes the joint efforts of independent experts from 15 countries to find national pathways to making economies based on low-carbon energy consistent with the 2-degree Celsius limit on global warming agreed to by governments in 2010. Such low-carbon pathways are feasible, but to achieve them will require a high degree of global cooperation and a novel design of the climate deal to be reached at the Cop 21 meeting in Paris in December 2015.

Developing the 15 pathways has not been easy. One of the main problems is that some of the key technologies that will be needed to sustain a low-carbon economy are not ready for mainstream use. They are predicated on the assumption that enough of these low-carbon technologies can achieve large-scale commercialization in the next 10 to 20 years. Indeed, the teams have not yet quite reached the emissions benchmark of 15bn tonnes in 2050, but can likely do so by incorporating further low-carbon technologies into their scenarios.

Key technologies in need of a large-scale, global, targeted, coordinated boost of investment include storage of intermittent wind and solar power; CCS; electrification of low-carbon vehicles; low-carbon heating, cooling and ventilation of residential and commercial buildings; fourth-generation nuclear energy; advanced biofuels for aviation and freight; and the electrification of process heating in various industrial sectors.

Beyond the headlines that 2-degree C is still obtainable through deep decarbonization, there are important lessons for the international climate negotiations. The focus of the negotiations is on emission reduction pledges to 2025 or 2030. Yet if countries do not work with a longer time horizon they are likely to adopt strategies that fall far short of what is needed to stay below the 2-degree C limit…

Read the full report here, or simply the executive summary here.”

The next major United Nations Climate Change meeting, COP21 in December 2015 in Paris, cannot be another failure!

Note: The picture above is one of my favorite spots on the island of Bora Bora.

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Categories: Economy, Sustainability