Much of the news coming out of the UN climate conference has focused on the spectacle, and how countries’ pledges to halt dangerous climate change are not on track. But behind the scenes there is reason for hope.
In many countries, the energy transition is already underway as declining costs make renewable energy ubiquitous and more affordable than fossil fuels. A growing number of world leaders agreed at the climate summit to reduce methane emissions and aim for net-zero emissions. Over the next two decades, more than 40 countries have committed to phasing out unabated coal power.
The challenge now for government officials is how to dramatically scale up clean energy while reducing fossil fuel emissions, and still meet the rapidly growing energy demands of billions of people in developing and emerging economies. With shortages and record high prices due to the ongoing energy crisis in many countries, navigating this early stage of the energy transition requires thoughtful policies and well-prioritized plans.
As climate policy experts with decades of experience in international energy policy, we have identified six strategic priorities that can help countries navigate this difficult terrain.
1) Deploy carbon pricing and markets more broadly
Only a few countries, states and territories have a carbon price so high that polluters can be prompted to cut their emissions.
A price on carbon, often created through a tax or carbon market system, captures the cost of damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions that companies do not currently pay, such as climate change, to crops. harm and rising health care costs. This is especially important for power generation and energy-intensive industries.
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One of the goals of the Glasgow Dialogue is to write rules to help carbon markets operate in a fair and transparent manner. This is necessary to effectively meet the many net-zero climate goals announced by countries ranging from Japan and South Korea to the US, China and the European Union. This includes regulations on the use of carbon offsets, which allow individuals or companies to invest in projects elsewhere to offset their own emissions. Carbon offsets are currently highly controversial and do not offer reliable emissions credits.
2) Focus on hard-to-decarbonize areas
Shipping, road freight and industries such as aluminum, cement and steel are all hard places to cut emissions, as they have yet to test affordable replacements for fossil fuels. While there are some innovative ideas, competitiveness concerns – such as companies moving production out of the country to evade regulations – have been a major impediment to progress.
Europe is trying to overcome this hurdle by establishing a carbon limit adjustment mechanism, which would tax imports of goods that did not face the same level of carbon taxes at home.
The United States and the European Union also announced at the summit that they would work to negotiate a global agreement to reduce high emissions in steel production.
3) Bring China and other emerging economies on board
It is clear that coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, needs to be rapidly eliminated, and doing so is vital to both the UN energy and climate agenda. Its functions stand out given that China accounts for more than half of global coal consumption, although other emerging economies such as India, Indonesia and Vietnam are also important.
This will not be easy. Remarkably half of Chinese coal plants are less than a decade old, which is a fraction of the typical life span of a coal plant. China has increased its climate commitments, including reaching net-zero emissions by 2060 and agreeing to end funding of coal power plants in other countries, but its current route will not cut substantially this decade .
A major announcement by India’s prime minister at the COP around a net-zero target for his country by 2070, an interim target to reduce emissions before it, is an early victory.
Indonesia and Vietnam signed a pledge to phase out coal power unabated, but Indonesia contained some caveats. It said it would “consider accelerating coal phasing in the 2040s”, but made it conditional on receiving more international financial and technical assistance.
4) Focus on innovation
Support for innovation has brought cutting-edge renewable energy and electric vehicles faster than expected. more is possible. For example, offshore wind, geothermal, carbon capture and green hydrogen are new developments that could make a big difference in the coming years.
At the climate summit, a coalition of world leaders launched the “Breakthrough Agenda” – a framework to bring together governments and businesses to collaborate on clean energy and technology. The Glasgow breakthrough includes making electric vehicles an affordable benchmark, reducing clean energy costs, increasing hydrogen energy storage and driving steel production to near-zero emissions, all by 2030.
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Leading countries and companies in developing these new technologies will have economic benefits, including jobs and economic growth. More opportunities exist in market design, social acceptance, equity, regulatory framework and business models. Energy systems are deeply linked to societal issues, so changing them will be successful only when solutions look beyond technology to societal needs.
5) Prioritize Green Financing
More than 160 banks and investment groups are involved in another coalition that has agreed to pressure high-emissions industries by tying lending decisions to a goal of global net-zero emissions by 2050.
Increasing green financing would require transparent taxonomies or guidelines to define green and clean investments; science-based transition plans for companies and financial institutions; And taking a close look at financial institutions’ portfolios is warranted given the risk of enough trapped fossil fuel assets, such as coal power plants that have not reached the end of their lifespan but can no longer be used.
Meeting the transition funding needs of developing economies should be a high priority.
6) Reduce short-term greenhouse gases
The Biden administration announced a comprehensive set of rules on November 2, 2021, to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas several times more potent than carbon dioxide that is fueled by oil and gas infrastructure, coal mines, Comes from agriculture and landfill seepage. Methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere long, so curbing emissions can rapidly benefit the climate while reducing carbon emissions.
The US and the European Union also launched a new global pledge to cut methane emissions by about a third by 2030. More than 100 countries have signed.
Such a coalition, based on a tightly focused issue, could lead to meaningful emissions reductions in places where it is less likely to support comprehensive climate agreements.
It is likely that UN energy and climate deliberations will continue to move forward as they see fit and initially. The actual work needs to be done at a more practical implementation level, such as in states, provinces and municipalities.
If we’ve learned one thing, it’s that mitigating climate change will be a long slog. While it is uncontested that the benefits of greenhouse gas mitigation far outweigh the costs, politicians need to show that the many energy transitions emerging are good for economies and communities, and can create long-lasting jobs and tax revenue. Huh.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.