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Net-zero emissions ‘mission possible’ by 2050, says industrial think tank

  • September 16, 2020

The Energy Transitions Commission, a think tank grouping — controversially — energy giants, banks and innovators, said the UN’s 2050 aim to decarbonize the world and create a “net-zero” greenhouse-gas economy was a “mission possible.”

To reach the target, annual extra investments costing between $1 trillion and $2 trillion a year (€842 billion to €1.68 billion), are needed, the ETC estimated, adding that such spending represents 1% to 1.5% of the global gross domestic product (GDP).

The ETC study’s release on Wednesday coincided with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen telling the European Parliament that the bloc’s 2030 decarbonization target should increase from the current 40% to 55%.

“Our economy and industry can manage this, and they want it, too,” she said.

Read more: ‘This is the moment for the EU to lead the way,’ says EU chief Ursula von der Leyen

In its study, the London-based ETC presented a 10-point plan calling for speeding up the use of “proven zero-carbon” technology, such a wind and solar power, investments in electric vehicles, and implementing policies to promote investment in transiting from carbon-intense to new zero-carbon alternative — and to do it all by 2030.

“Otherwise it will be too late,” said ETC co-chair, Adair Turner. “Action in the next decade is crucial.”

Critical, “next-wave” technologies identified by the study included hydrogen, sustainable fuels, carbon capture as well as the use of public funds to develop commercial-scale pilot schemes, and “light-duty vehicle fleets” and charging networks.

Energy storage and sustainable biogas technologies were also crucial.

  • ‘We’re running out of time’ on climate change

    Time is running out

    The protesters’ symbol was a clock to signal to those meeting at the United Nations climate change conference (COP24) that time is running out if the world is to limit global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Negotiations at the COP have been tough, with disagreements on financing for developing countries and on how states should report their emissions cuts.

  • ‘We’re running out of time’ on climate change

    Sending up Bolsonaro

    Some marchers made giant puppets, including of Brazil’s president elect, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, to protest the leader’s climate policies. Bolsonaro has threatened to follow US President Donald Trump and withdraw his country from the Paris climate agreement. Bolsonaro has also talked about loosening protections for the Amazon rainforest — the Earth’s green lungs.

  • ‘We’re running out of time’ on climate change

    Air pollution woes

    About seven million people worldwide die prematurely due to air pollution every year. Poland’s air quality is particularly bad because of the country’s dependence on coal for electricity and heating. Some protesters decorated pollution masks to make a statement about Poland’s coal policy. During the COP, the country’s president said there was no intention to phase out coal.

  • ‘We’re running out of time’ on climate change

    ‘Don’t nuke the climate’

    Some groups, like the International Atomic Energy Agency, are promoting nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. It would provide a stable and greenhouse gas-emission-free energy source, says the IAEA. A number of protesters turned up to advocate against nuclear, because there is no good way to deal with the radioactive waste it produces and because it is potentially unsafe, they say.

  • ‘We’re running out of time’ on climate change

    A sustainable Christmas

    Sustaina Claus arrived at the climate march with his Christmas elves to preach the message of sustainability. The environmental activist says we need to stop overconsumption if we are to stop climate change and protect the planet’s resources. Instead of buying mountains of gifts for your loved ones at Christmas, “you should give the gift of you.”

  • ‘We’re running out of time’ on climate change

    Activists held at the border

    NGOs said a number of environmental campaigners were refused entry at the Polish border or deported from the country, having been deemed a “threat” to national security. Climate Action Network, an umbrella group of climate groups, called the actions worrying. A spokeswoman for Poland’s border guards said she could not say whether the refusals were connected to the COP, according to Reuters.

  • ‘We’re running out of time’ on climate change

    Cycling for the climate

    Climate activist Lander Wantens cycled over 1,000 kilometers from Belgium to Katowice for the protest and to deliver a message to delegates to do more to combat climate change. He hopes that if the negotiators see “four guys from Belgium are crazy enough to bike to the climate summit in Poland in winter, maybe that’s a signal that they have to work on an ambitious climate agreement.”

    Author: Jennifer Collins, Louise Osborne

Read more: ‘We are not locked into fossil fuels in Africa’

China zero-carbon potential

In its blueprint, said the ETC, would by 2050 enable “all developed economies” to reach net-zero emissions of greenhouse gas emission, such as carbon dioxide and methane, long blamed for catastrophic climate warming.

Already, average surface temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius since the 19th century — nudging a cap of “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) specified in the UN’s landmark 2015 Paris climate deal.

China, in particular, had the resources and technology leadership to become a “rich developed zero-carbon economy” by 2050, forecast the ETC, which integrated previous findings, including the “hard to abate” cement sector, into its latest study.

China currently tops the list of total global carbon-dioxide emissions

On global “clean” electricity supply, the ETC study envisages a four-to-five fold boom to reach 90,000-115,000 terawatt hours by 2050.

That would require a five-to-six fold surge in the annual pace of wind and solar energy capture, compared to the increase in 2019.

Read more: All 20 biodiversity targets missed as pollution, climate change rage on: UN report

Addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday, von der Leyen conceded that a tougher EU greenhouse emissions reduction target would be “too much for some and not enough for others.”

But it would help the 27-nation bloc achieve climate neutrality by 2050, she insisted. Already, the EU says emissions sank 23% between 1990 and 2018.

Climate lawsuits against Spain, France

On Tuesday, three environmental groups, Greenpeace included, said they had launched a lawsuit against Spain’s government, accusing it of taking insufficient action.

In December 2018, Greenpeace and Oxfam amongst others launched a similar lawsuit against the French state.

Environmentalists say the European Union’s declared ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050 under its “Green Deal” label has so far been too slow.

ipj/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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