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International clean technologies plan announced at COP26

Thursday, November 4th 2021, 9:00 am - Over 40 governments have signed a COP26 pledge to accelerate low-carbon solutions in key sectors

At COP26 a pledge was signed by nations accounting for more than 70 per cent of world GDP to ramp up net zero solutions in four vital sectors.

The “Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda,” as the pledge is known, is a significant announcement from the all-important climate conference, underway this week. The Breakthrough is aimed at spurring climate policies in the power, transport, steel, and hydrogen sectors.

More than 40 countries have signed on to the pledge, including Canada, the US, the UK, China, India, and Japan, a show of international cooperation that will concentrate on “public-private collaboration” and “mobilizing finance at scale” in pursuit of “the global transition to a clean economy...while making solutions to adaptation more affordable and inclusive.”

“The technology exists to decarbonize the areas identified in the Glasgow Breakthrough,” Sarah Petrevan, Policy Director, Clean Energy Canada, told The Weather Network. “The Glasgow Breakthrough exists to help encourage the massive scale-up of the technologies needed, making them widely commercially available and the predominant, lowest cost option.”

“In the majority of cases, the technology is still emerging—in the demonstration phase in the case of zero-emission steel, or in the pre-commercialization stage, in the case of hydrogen electrolysers,” Petrevan added. “What the Breakthrough pushes for is a new normal.”

Getty Images: Wind tunnel with bright backlight.  Credit: Viaframe / Stone / Getty Images. Wind tunnel with bright backlight. (Credit: Viaframe/Stone/Getty Images).

The main barrier to climate action these days is not at all technology,” agreed Catherine Abreu, Founder and Executive Director of Destination Zero, in conversation with The Weather Network. “The main barrier is political will. That's mostly what events like COP26 are about. They're about trying to galvanize the political will to get governments on board with taking the level of action that's needed to confront the climate crisis.”

Notable in the pledge is the concentration on the steel and hydrogen sectors, neither of which were central at earlier climate talks.

Steel is responsible for more than 7 per cent of global emissions and reducing the industry’s impact has proven challenging, with most efforts aimed at shifting from coal-based steelmaking. The goal of the Breakthrough is “near-zero carbon production in every region by 2030 or earlier.”

The timing aligns with an arrangement between the US and the EU, signed on Sunday during a meeting of the Group of 20 countries, which will see both bodies eliminate steel and aluminum tariffs and emphasize trading of low-carbon steel.

“The fact that the steel sector has been raised to a world leaders level agreement shows the importance of the sector in reaching our carbon goals and underlines that there are existing decarbonisation solutions which just need to be scaled,” noted Chris Bataille, IPCC AR6 industry chapter author.

Regarding hydrogen, an energy source of vast potential, the obstacle has been that as of 2019 all but 2 per cent of hydrogen was produced from fossil fuels. The goal in the Breakthrough is global availability of “renewable” and “low-carbon” hydrogen by 2030.

“Domestic policy is hugely important,” Petrevan told The Weather Network. “Consider the example of hydrogen: last year, we released a report that looked at plans that governments had published [regarding] … the development of hydrogen.The European Union and Germany, respectively, are investing $830.3 billion and $13.7 billion to make those visions a reality.”

Petrevan added, “And it’s not just investment; domestic policies, like regulations, standards, and procurement, also play a significant role in the scale-up of clean technologies.”

Getty Images: 463245219 Caption: Farmer with digital tablet in crop field. Credit: Ariel Skelley / DigitalVision / Getty Images. Farmer with digital tablet in crop field. (Credit: Ariel Skelley/DigitalVision/Getty Images).

As for the heavy-hitting sectors of transport and power—which account for 20 per cent and 17.5 per cent of global emissions, respectively—the Breakthrough pledges to make clean power the option “most affordable and reliable” and zero-emission vehicles “the new norm,” both by 2030.

“An accelerated global transition to zero-emission vehicles could nearly eliminate the gap with a 2°C pathway,” stated Josh Miller, Modelling Center Manager, International Council on Clean Transportation. “This would require significantly strengthening policies for zero-emission vehicles before 2030.”

The Boris Johnson government, which has played an advocacy role in the adoption of the Breakthrough pledge, has forecasted an increase of 20 million jobs globally and a 4 per cent rise in global GDP, if goals are met across the four sectors. Such claims were backed by a report, released at the conference, on the possibilities for innovation and transition in these economies.

“The creation of 20 million jobs was such an important part of that announcement,” Abreu said. “But the other element of it is equity. There are countries like Canada that have been pumping greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere for over a century, and who, as a result of that, have made a fair amount of money. We've industrialized quicker than other countries and we have the wealth to show for it.”

“So it's countries like Canada,” Abreu stated, “that need to be on the front end of addressing climate change.”

Thumbnail credit: Hildegrade/Moment/Getty Images.

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