From 6th – 17th November, 2017 the world’s nations met to discuss climate change and the various strategies that can be implemented to combat it. Held in Bonn, Germany, the COP23 (Conference of the Parties) was presided over by Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama. This choice of president for the summit was a somewhat significant move as Fiji became the first small island developing state to hold the position over the Conference of the Parties and was awarded the position due to the country’s relationship with its endangered marine life and vulnerability to the effects of climate change.
COP23 was ostensibly about the plans and practices required to help achieve the targets set out in the Paris agreement.
The headline news of the conference surrounded the status of the United States of America (USA) as the only non-signatory to the prior COP21 summit in Paris, where the ambitious Paris climate agreement was penned. Discussions surrounding the consequent importance of the absence of the world’s largest economy at COP21 was certainly a hot topic at the event.
In addition to this, COP23 also saw the birth of a multinational alliance to phase out coal and the growth of a coalition of sub-national governments that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions towards net zero by 2050.
The USA’s administration was met with international condemnation in early 2017 when it announced its intention to withdraw the USA from the Paris climate agreement. In response to this, influential US figures that opposed the administration’s stance on environmental matters created a coalition – America’s Pledge.
The coalition of cities, states and businesses is spearheaded by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and current California governor Jerry Brown. It is said to represent over half of the US economy and, if added together would have an economic power of approximately $10tn which would make it the third largest economy in the world behind the USA and China in terms of GDP. Therefore, it appears that the decision taken by the federal government of the USA is unlikely to undermine the Paris agreement as the nation intends to, and will, still provide an economic force and perhaps, more importantly, the key intellectual figures that can provide breakthrough technologies to fight against climate change.
Arguably, the most newsworthy factor of COP23 was the development of the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The alliance, currently consisting of 19 nations, is led by the UK and has committed to phasing out coal from power generation by 2030.
Statistics surrounding the coal industry make for grim reading as even in the 21st Century, coal is responsible for more than 40% of global emissions of carbon dioxide whilst simultaneously providing 40% of global electricity.
The UK climate minister Claire Perry said “The case against coal is unequivocal. The alliance will signal to the world that the time of coal has passed”. The UK is primed to position itself as an expert in phasing out coal as electricity generated by coal in the UK has already fallen from 40% to 2% since 2012. In addition to this, the National Grid recently announced that on the 21st April 2017, the UK experienced its first ever coal-free day in Britain since 1882. Furthermore, it has been recognised nationally that the UK is in a unique position to be a leader in this area due to it being a global economic leader and an island which will act as a catalyst for alternatives to coal generation to be maximised and mass adopted. The recent forming of the Smart Power Industry Alliance (SPIA) serves as proof that the UK intend to step up to the challenge.
Further evidence can be seen through the recent Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) analysis that shows the UK to be the leader of the G20 in clean growth. Although with the aforementioned reliance on coal worldwide it is clear that coal needs to be replaced by something and although the costs of renewables are falling, the inherent reliability issues of renewable energy arise. Energy storage solutions could be one way of combating this as they have the potential to store energy at a time of high availability for discharge when required.
Another alliance that has seemingly strengthened at COP23 is the Under2 coalition. The Under2 coalition is a commitment by sub-national governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% on 1990 levels by 2050. COP23 saw 16 new jurisdictions from around the world join the coalition to take its members beyond the 200 mark. The Under2 Coalition is based on three work streams, developing 2050 pathway plans, scaling innovative policy solutions and measuring progress.
Although it lacked the scope of some previous summits, COP23 did progress in some areas. The presence of America’s pledge lowered anxieties over the potential effects of the US withdrawal from the Paris agreement whilst the birth of the Powering Past Coal Alliance and continued growth of the Under2 coalition are positive steps. Although there is room for improvement which will be discussed in the Talanoa dialogue, beginning in January 2018, which aims to discuss ways of increasing ambition in an inclusive, participatory and transparent process.
It should also be noted that although ambition should be praised, some more basic goals could be implemented to improve sustainability with Harry Verhaar, head of global public and government affairs at Philips Lighting claiming “energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit – today, energy efficiency improves by about 1.5% every year but simply doubling this to 3% per year would set us on a sustainable path.”
To help businesses learn and understand more about the energy efficiency, energy storage and the sustainable future that it can help create, Powerstar is hosting a seminar at the Best Western Westley Hotel on the 17th January 2018. The short and sharp breakfast seminar will explore the current energy landscape, the required future energy landscape and the capabilities that battery based energy storage can provide in acheiving a low carbon, green energy economy. To book your place please click the button below.
Not in the area? We also have a seminar in London at the Wellcome Collection on the 21st March 2018, use the button below to book.