To save us from climate change, give technology a wider role

In mid-October, I spent a week in Paris, where the expectation for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) was heating up despite the cold and rainy weather.

No conference or meeting I attended ended without discussing climate challenges. A senior French diplomat in charge of COP21, who I met during my stay, told me that the host country is determined not to repeat the failures of the Copenhagen meeting in 2009. An encouraging development, in this regard, is that the number of countries tabling Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) has reached 150, covering over 90% of global GHG emissions.

There is very sound and strong competition among numerous stakeholders to make concrete inputs into the COP 21 or to demonstrate their readiness to be active players in this great fight against climate change. As a recent example, on 16 October in Paris, ten corporate CEOs allying for the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) jointly declared their collective support for an effective climate agreement to be reached at COP 21.

However heated, there is a risk that COP 21 could fall short of agreeing on truly effective actions due to the fragility of political will or as the result of geopolitical power games among nations. Therefore, we need to fully recognize and maximize the contributions from technologies to arrest climate change. This white paper “Scaling Technologies to Decarbonize Energy”, launched by the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Decarbonizing Energy, is intended to reach out to a wider audience to share a renewed recognition of the importance of innovative technologies.

The white paper examines the role of current renewable energy sources and technologies such as wind, solar, energy efficient buildings and efficient industry processes as well as the innovations of tomorrow like advanced power storage, carbon scrubbing technologies, advanced nuclear reactors and hydrogen technologies.

The bottom line is that technology will do the job, especially if used at the right place and at the right time, without making life difficult for people. Indeed, technology has surprised us in the past by making our economy and lifestyle increasingly energy efficient. However, much more should be done at a faster speed towards the decarbonization of the energy system as the impacts of climate change are relentless.

This heightened momentum should not be lost. Let us give a wider role to decarbonizing technologies to arrest climate change. If some of them are thought to be a distant dream, then it is up to us to turn them into a reality to secure a comfortable planet for future generations.

The Summit on the Global Agenda 2015 takes place in Abu Dhabi from 25-27 October. The report, Scaling Technologies to Decarbonize Energy, is available here.

Author: Prof. Tatsuo Masuda, Nagoya University of Commerce and Business Graduate School, a member of Global Agenda Council on Decarbonizing Energy

Image: Power-generating windmill turbines are pictured at the ‘Amrumbank West’ offshore windpark in the northern sea near the island of Amrum, Germany September 4, 2015. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen

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