Leaders from countries highlighted the need to invest more in clean energy to address the growing global challenges of climate change and energy security.
span data–amp-original-style=”font weight: 400 The world doesn’t have to choose between the climate crisis and the energy crisis. Both can be solved with the right investments,” Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of The International Energy Agency (IEA), stated while addressing key industry and government figures at Davos.
The ramifications from the war are causing the world to reel as it increases supply chain stress and drives already high global oil prices. Alternative supply chains have been put at the forefront of the world’s agenda. A transition to cleaner, more sustainable resources is becoming a more viable option for the future.
As countries race to reach the Paris climate agreement goals, it is becoming increasingly clear that decarbonisation will not suffice. Other sources of climate pollution such as agriculture and deforestation must also be addressed. This will require a paradigm shift in how we deal with climate change.
We collectively are taking a significant step forward as countries discuss new goals to reduce other climate pollutants. This is something we must keep doing.
We have witnessed a remarkable decoupling between the economy and climate over the last few years. It is a result technological advances, but also a notable shift in policy. India and other countries have set ambitious goals for reducing global carbon emissions. However, this is not enough to stop climate change from getting worse. To keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, we need to also reduce other major drivers, such as our economy and our consumption of natural resources.
Redrawing of the road map
Now it is clear that we must move beyond decarbonisation and create a new paradigm. A paradigm where we reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants such as methane, but also cut down on other climate pollutants. This will increase the chances of global warming being kept below safe levels. It will also give our children and grandchildren the chance to protect our planet for future generations.
The main difference between these approaches is that the former targets reducing climate pollutants like methane while the latter targets reducing carbon dioxide emissions only. Both approaches are needed if we want to tackle the climate change crisis effectively. However, cutting emissions of climate pollutant is better than focusing on carbon dioxide.
A recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supports the need to move beyond decarbonisation. This study is the first to compare the impacts of cutting emissions from a wide range of climate pollutants with carbon dioxide.
“Short-term climate pollutants must be reduced in the next decade to slow down warming and reduce suffering from ever-increasing heatwaves, droughts, superstorms, and fires,” Drew Shindell, Nicholas Professor of Earth Science at Duke University, said. We need to reduce short-term climate pollutants in this decade span>” “To slow down warming and reduce the suffering from ever-increasing heatwaves.
The study’s findings show that focusing large amounts of collective effort on cutting carbon dioxide emissions does not suffice to prevent global temperatures rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This would also increase the risk of irreversible consequences.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations intergovernmental body, also warned about “backlash” if we reduce fossil fuel emissions. Recent IPCC reports show that shifting to clean energy and decarbonizing the energy system could cause temperatures to rise. This is because fossil fuel emissions also contain sulphate aerosols. These aerosols act to cool down the climate for very short periods of time, from days to weeks, before dissipating.
Beyond set interventions
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), methane is a primary component in natural gas and contributes more that 25% to the rising temperatures. It is a powerful pollutant that has a potential to cause global warming 80 times faster than CO2 in the 20 years following its release into the atmosphere. IPCC states that deep reductions in methane are required to limit global warming to 1.5degC and 2degC.
The good news is that technology exists that can mitigate over 75% of methane emissions. This technology, in fact, is free of cost.
Globally, the goal is to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. We aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Around 2017, anthropogenic warming hit the 1degC threshold. The Paris Agreement promises that countries will reduce their GHG emissions by 30 gigatonnes annually by 2030. While the necessary solutions are available, more greenhouse gas emissions are currently entering the atmosphere, making it harder for the planet to be safe.
India must develop a comprehensive industrial strategy with strategic investments and other interventions to boost demand for green hydrogen throughout the economy. This includes the chemical industry, hydrogen fuel vehicle, hydrogen turbines for firm generation, steam generation, and other low-emission industrial production opportunities. With its National Hydrogen Mission, the Indian Government has started to move. This mission focuses primarily on encouraging clean energy sources.
Policy makers should consider establishing flexible supply chains and workforce capacities in advance.
The world and its future are at an important juncture. Either we continue to rely on fossil and gaseous energy carriers or we can take the leap towards a more sustainable future. India will need to make a difficult choice as it navigates the complicated path between the need for safe and cost-effective energy options to support its growing economy, while also meeting the government’s 2070 emissions targets.