Climate change has gotten worse every year, but according to researchers at UC San Diego, there are promising signs of real decarbonization around the world
At the upcoming Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November there is likely to be a lot of discussion about the fact that the world is not on the right track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement of stopping warming well below 2 ° C. According to a new article from the University of California at San Diego, published in Natural energy, however, world diplomats will find encouraging signs in emerging “niches” for clean energy technologies – countries, states or companies – that are pioneers in decarbonization.
“In certain areas the acceptance rates for solar and wind turbines as well as electric vehicles are very high and are increasing every year,” write the authors of the opinion article Ryan Hanna, Assistant Research Scientist at the Center for Energy Research at UC San Diego and David G. Victor, Professor for industrial innovation at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego. “It is important to look for niches because this is where the real stage of decarbonization takes place. Indeed, the whole challenge of decarbonization can be seen as one of opening up and growing niches – for new technologies, policies and practices, all of which are needed to address the climate crisis. “
The glimmer of hope of decarbonization will be vital for COP26 diplomats, who may be disappointed when they begin an official “inventory” to review past emissions. This year, each country will report on its emissions balance for the past five years and make new, bolder commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, global fossil fuel emissions had increased by around one percent a year over the past decade. During the same period, fossil fuel emissions in the US decreased by about one percent per year; However, this slight decrease is nowhere near the decrease envisaged in the original US commitment to the Paris Agreement.
“The abundant talk in recent years about ‘the energy transition’ has hardly triggered the dependence on conventional fossil fuels, nor has it significantly changed the development of CO2 emissions or set the world on the path to achieve the Paris targets”, write Hanna and Victor. “Instead, policy makers should measure the real machine rooms of technological change – right down to niche markets.”
They indicate a growing number of markets where clean technologies are used well above the global and regional average.
“Norway and California are leaders in electric vehicles, Ireland in wind power and China in electric buses and new nuclear power plants,” write Hanna and Victor.
Today’s energy pioneers are the ones who are actually doing the hard work to develop low carbon technologies and bring them to the world. These leaders who develop and test new technology are usually small groups; However, they are critical to climate crises because they take risks and show what is possible, thus reducing risk to the global markets that follow.
From 2010, Germany has invested heavily in solar photovoltaics, which has reduced costs and made photovoltaics more politically and economically viable worldwide. Hanna and Victor pay tribute to Germany’s leading position in the expansive photovoltaic market that the world has today.
To eliminate at least a third of global emissions, however, technologies are needed that are currently prototypes. To bring more clean energy technologies to the world, new investments in research and development (R&D) are required, especially in novel technologies related to power grids.
This investment is strong in China, mixed in Europe and, along with other R&D spending, is lagging behind in the US
“In the US, a new government that is serious about climate change could provide a new impetus for spending on research and development – for example through a planned infrastructure bill that could be approved by law this fall – as innovation is one of the few There is a bipartisan consensus in areas of energy policy, ”the authors write.
The need is urgent as limiting warming to 1.5 ° C under the Paris Agreement has become increasingly unattainable. In order to achieve the goal, emissions must now be continuously reduced by around 6 percent worldwide.
“This is a speed and scope comparable to what has been achieved through global pandemic lockdowns, but previously unprecedented in history and well outside the realm of practicality,” the authors write.
They conclude that COP26 provides an opportunity to begin an inventory of the industrial and agricultural revolutions required for decarbonization when managed by diplomats who think like revolutionaries rather than a diplomatic committee.