Climate Change: Net-Zero Emissions

As a direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human activity, the decease of 8.8 percent in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (−1551 Mt CO2) in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, was indeed a good news. The magnitude of this decrease was larger than during previous economic downturns or World War II.

However, the bad news is that a new report, the United in Science 2020, released on 9 September 2020, by leading science organizations has found that CO2 emissions are now heading in the direction of pre-pandemic levels following a temporary decline caused by the lockdown and economic slowdown.

This report has been compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) under the direction of the United Nations Secretary-General to bring together the latest climate science related updates from a group of key global partner organizations – WMO, Global Carbon Project (GCP), UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Met Office. The content of each chapter is attributable to each respective organization.

Here is a graph which exemplifies key messages:

CARBON EMISSIONS CONTINUE TO RISE Source: eleventhcolumn.com

Here is some background on the subject.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to increase the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, and at making finance flows consistent with a low Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and climate-resilient pathway.

Source: today.lamu.edu

With the Paris Agreement in 2015, 195 countries submitted plans to cut GHG emissions. Because it was clear, however, that these measures would not be nearly enough to meet the Paris goals, the agreement stipulated that states would submit commitments to more radical cuts five years later.

In December 2015, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference called for the report and the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C, also known as SR15, was published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 8 October 2018.  The report was delivered at the United Nations’ 48th session of the IPCC to “deliver the authoritative, scientific guide for governments” to deal with climate change.  The report stated that:

  • Global net human-caused carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must fall by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero (a 100 percent reduction) around 2050. These timescales are far shorter than had previously been thought necessary.
Source: theconversation.com

The report was written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries who analysed more than 6,000 scientific studies.  The purpose of this report is to provide guidance for the signatories of the Paris Agreement which aims to hold the global average temperature increase to “Well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”

The report warns that the world is currently heading for a 1.5°C warmer world as early as 2040, with lasting and profound environmental and economic implications.  IPCC members said the next few years are probably the most important in humanity’s history as government action (or inaction) based on these findings will determine whether we can avert large-scale catastrophe.

Source: World Economic Forum

The report acknowledged that high population growth is a “Key Impediment” to reaching climate targets.  It also stated that:

  • “Lack of global cooperation and high inequality that limit the ability to control land use emissions, and rapidly growing resource-intensive consumption are key impediments [to hitting 1.5 degree target].”

The scientists outline the measures required to achieving these targets, which predictably involve overhauling our economies to break free from our dependence on fossil fuels.

The net-zero goal was embraced by dozens of countries around the world and they agreed that CO2 emissions had to be brought down to zero by 2050 if the world was going to try to limit global warming to 1.5 C and avoid catastrophic impacts.

Source: globalnews.ca

The United Kingdom was one of the countries who were committed to bringing down CO2 emissions to zero by 2050. Following the commitment as well as the guidelines provided in the report, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution on 18 November 2020.

The plan – which is part of the PM’s mission to level up across the country – will mobilize £12 billion of government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs in the UK, and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030.

Covering clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies, the Prime Minister’s blueprint will allow the UK to forge ahead with eradicating its contribution to climate change by 2050, particularly crucial in the run up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year.

The Prime Minister’s ten points, which are built around the UK’s strengths, are:

  1. Offshore Wind: Producing enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40GW by 2030, supporting up to 60,000 jobs;
  2. Hydrogen: Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade:
    1. Up to £500 million, including for trialing homes using hydrogen for heating and cooking, starting with a Hydrogen Neighborhoods in 2023, moving to a Hydrogen Village by 2025, with an aim for a Hydrogen Town – equivalent to tens of thousands of homes – before the end of the decade; and
    2. Of this funding, £240 million will go into new hydrogen production facilities.
  3. Nuclear: Advancing nuclear as a clean energy source, across large scale nuclear and developing the next generation of small and advanced reactors, which could support 10,000 jobs:
    1. £525 million to help develop large and smaller-scale nuclear plants, and research and develop new advanced modular reactors.
  4. Electric Vehicles: Backing our world-leading car manufacturing bases including in the West Midlands, North East and North Wales to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and transforming our national infrastructure to better support electric vehicles:
    1. Following extensive consultation with car manufacturers and sellers, the Prime Minister has confirmed that the UK will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, ten years earlier than planned. However we will allow the sale of hybrid cars and vans that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe until 2035;
    2. The UK car industry already manufactures a significant proportion of electric vehicles in Europe, including one of the most popular models in the world;
    3. £1.3 billion to accelerate the rollout of changepoints for electric vehicles in homes, streets and on motorways across England, so people can more easily and conveniently charge their cars;
    4. £582 million in grants for those buying zero or ultra-low emission vehicles to make them cheaper to buy and incentivize more people to make the transition; and
    5. Nearly £500 million to be spent in the next four years for the development and mass-scale production of electric vehicle batteries, as part of our commitment to provide up to £1 billion, boosting international investment into our strong manufacturing bases including in the Midlands and North East.
  5. Public Transport, Cycling and Walking: Making cycling and walking more attractive ways to travel and investing in zero-emission public transport of the future:
    1. £5 billion for alternative greener ways of travel including cycling, walking, and buses
  6. Jet Zero and Greener Maritime: Supporting difficult-to-decarbonize industries to become greener through research projects for zero-emission planes and ships:
    1. Greener maritime: £20 million for a competition to develop clean maritime technology, such as feasibility studies on key sites, including Orkney and Teesside.
  7. Homes and Public Buildings: Making our homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, whilst creating 50,000 jobs by 2030, and a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028:
    1. Homes and public buildings: £1 billion next year into making new and existing homes and public buildings more efficient, extending the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme by a year and making public sector buildings greener and cutting bills for hospitals and schools, as part of the Public Sector Decarbonization Scheme.
  8. Carbon Capture: Becoming a world-leader in technology to capture and store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emissions of the industrial Humber today:
    1. To revitalize the birthplaces of the first industrial revolution, the UK will be at the global forefront of carbon capture, usage and storage technology, benefiting regions with industries that are particularly difficult to decarbonize;
    2. An extra £200 million of new funding to create two carbon capture clusters by the mid-2020s, with another two set to be created by 2030; and
    3. This increased the total invested to £1 billion, helping to support 50,000 jobs, potentially in areas such as the Humber, Teesside, Merseyside, Grangemouth and Port Talbot.
  9. Nature: Protecting and restoring our natural environment, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, whilst creating and retaining thousands of jobs:
    1. £5.2 billion to create for new flood and coastal defense in England by 2027.
  10. Innovation and Finance: Developing the cutting-edge technologies needed to reach these new energy ambitions and make the City of London the global center of green finance:
    1. £1 billion energy innovation fund to stay ahead of the latest technologies needed to reach new energy targets.

This follows ambitious plans to make the UK the world leader in clean wind energy, and plans for greater protections for England’s iconic landscapes and the creation of new national parks, as set out by the Prime Minister over the last few weeks.

The cumulative effect of this plan will be to reduce UK emissions by 180 million tonnes of
CO2 equivalent (Mt CO2 e) between 2023 and 2032, equal to taking all of today’s cars off the road for around two years. But this is only the start. The plan is to over the next year they will work with industry to devise further sectoral plans and meet their carbon budgets and target of net zero by 2050. To drive the progress towards this national priority, the Prime Minister will establish a new Task Force Net Zero, putting a systems approach at the heart of their thinking.

The Prime Minister described this plan as a “global template for delivering net-zero emissions” ahead of the UK hosting the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year.

However, it is realized that action by the UK alone will not be sufficient to avoid catastrophic climate change. The Prime Minister stated that:

  • Our Ten Point Plan strengthens our ability to bring other countries with us and positions Britain as a leader in the green technologies we all need to employ;
  • Through our Presidency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties 26 (COP26) in Glasgow, the UK will urge ambitious action from countries, businesses, cities, and investors alike;
  • Together we will deliver the promises of the 2015 Paris Agreement and drive progress towards global net zero;
  • And next month, alongside the UN and France, the UK will host a Climate Ambition Summit five years after COP21 in Paris to rally the world behind the goal of a greener, more resilient and sustainable future.

The UK was the first major economy to embrace a legal obligation to achieve net zero
carbon emissions by 2050.

Kanata, Ontario, Canada 23 November 2020