A detailed look at the Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement is a the first legally binding climate deal, which 195 countries adopted at the Paris Climate conference in December 2015. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C over the next 100 years.
The agreement sends a clear signal to all stakeholders, investors, businesses, civil society and policy-makers that the global transition to clean energy is here to stay and resources have to shift away from fossil fuels.
The key elements of the agreement are mitigation, transparency, adaptation, loss and damage, the role of cities, region and local authorities, and support.
Mitigation: reducing emissions
The governments agreed to keep global warming below 2 °C over the course of this century and ideally lower than 1.5 °C. Global warming of more than 2 °C would have serious consequences, such as an increase in the number of extreme climate events, according to the IPCC.
They also agreed on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible but recognised this would take longer for developing countries. Each government would undertake rapid reductions in emissions in accordance with the best available science.
Transparency and global stocktake
An agreement was made for governments to come together every five years to set more ambitious targets as required by the latest research; report to each other and the public on the implementation of those targets; and track progress towards the long-term goal through a robust accountability system.
While strictly speaking, parties are not legally bound to achieve their targets, each party is legally bound to pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of their contributions. This, combined with robust transparency and accountability provisions, provides a solid basis for an inclusive regime.
There’s the need to adapt to the current effects global warming is having on the planet. The governments agreed to strengthen societies’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change; and provide continued support for adaptation in developing countries.
Loss and damage
The agreement also recognises the importance of minimising and addressing the loss and damage associated with climate change. This means governments have pledged to cooperate and enhance their understanding, action and support in different areas with early warning systems, emergency preparedness, risk insurance and more.
Role of cities, regions and local authorities
Cities, regions and local authorities are invited to scale up their efforts to support action and reduce emissions; build resilience against the adverse effects of climate change; and promote regional and international cooperation.
EU members and other developed countries will continue to support climate action to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change impacts in developing countries.
All other countries are encouraged to provide, or continue to provide, similar support on a voluntary basis.
The next steps for all the countries who have signed the agreement is to plan for the future with cutting carbon emissions in mind. In the UK, Greenpeace’s chief scientist Doug Parr said: “A mix of renewables, battery storage and efficiency measures is the way to go. If Theresa May wants to have an industrial strategy that can cut emissions, create jobs, and help keep down bills, she should put low-carbon infrastructure at its heart.”
In December 2018, UN delegates will reconvene to write the formal rules for the agreement. Countries that have signed up to the agreement will need to submit plans for reducing emissions and reaching the guidelines set in 2015, although many have already done this, ratifying the agreement.
One barrier that could affect the Paris Agreement is Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential election. He’s already made it quite clear he is sceptical about global warming but during his campaign he also said he’d withdraw from the Paris agreement. This could have a knock-on effect as other large countries such as China could follow that lead.
There’s no doubt the Paris Agreement is a clear step forward in combatting climate change and now that it’s been ratified by enough countries - representing more than 55% of global carbon emissions – the initial effects on policy should be seen soon.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere