G8 statement on climate change ¶27 clean energy ¶28 nuclear ¶31 CCS

July 9, 2008 at 6:13 am | Posted in Carbon Capture and Storage, Carbon emissions, CCS, Clean energy, Climate change, Environment, Global warming, Nuclear energy, Nuclear power, Renewable energy | Leave a comment
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Listening to American and British strategic views on how to address our combined energy security and climate challenges it seems our leaders are eager to move us from an economy based on oil to a nuclear economy, though they have yet to tell the public that in so many words.  (See transcript or video of yesterday’s Channel 4 interview with Gordon Brown, for example.)

In the G8 statement on climate change, paragraphs 27 on clean energy, 28 on nuclear power and 31 on Carbon Capture and Storage are the ones that currently interest me most:

27. We promote clean energy, given its importance in tackling climate change and for the enhancement of energy security, by setting national goals and formulating action plans followed by appropriate monitoring. We believe that there are significant and growing economic and employment opportunities in this sector. We recognise the important role of renewable energy in tackling climate change and in the long term reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. We underscore the importance of sustainable biofuel production and use. The same should apply for the broader use of biomass for fuel, heat and electricity. We support the work of the “Global Bioenergy Partnership” (GBEP) and invite it to work with other relevant stakeholders to develop science-based benchmarks and indicators for biofuel production and use. We are committed to continuing research and development of second generation biofuel technologies.

28. We witness that a growing number of countries have expressed their interests in nuclear power programmes as a means to addressing climate change and energy security concerns. These countries regard nuclear power as an essential instrument in reducing dependence on fossil fuels and hence greenhouse gas emissions. We reiterate that safeguards (nuclear nonproliferation), nuclear safety and nuclear security (3S) are fundamental principles for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Against this background, an international initiative proposed by Japan on 3S-based nuclear energy infrastructure will be launched. We affirm the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in this process.

31. We will establish an international initiative with the support of the IEA to develop road maps for innovative technologies and cooperate upon existing and new partnerships, including carbon capture and storage (CCS) and advanced energy technologies. Reaffirming our Heiligendamm commitment to urgently develop, deploy and foster clean energy technologies, we recognise and encourage a wide range of policy instruments such as transparent regulatory frameworks, economic and fiscal incentives, and public/private partnerships to foster private sector investments in new technologies. We strongly support the launching of 20 large-scale CCS demonstration projects globally by 2010, taking into account various national circumstances, with a view to beginning broad deployment of CCS by 2020. To accelerate these and other efforts, we are committed to increasing investment in both basic and applied environmental and clean energy technology research and development (R&D), and the promotion of commercialisation including through direct government funding and fiscal measures to encourage private sector investment. In this respect, G8 members have so far pledged over the next several years over US$10bn annually in direct government-funded R&D. We also agree to take various policy and regulatory measures to provide incentives for commercialising these technologies. We note the opportunity to promote research on complementary technological approaches which may contribute towards maintaining a stable climate. To respond to the growing demand for Earth observation data, we will accelerate efforts within the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), which builds on the work of UN specialised agencies and programs, in priority areas, inter alia, climate change and water resources management, by strengthening observation, prediction and data sharing. We also support capacity building for developing countries in earth observations and promote interoperability and linkage with other partners.

They say “We promote clean energy” but do not define “clean energy” as far as I can see.  In briefings and interviews this week, James Connaughton and Gordon Brown do define clean energy quite clearly as including nuclear power—they stress its significance—and by their recent remarks, it seems nuclear power is becoming the brightest star of all their clean energy ambitions.  At least, nuclear is on the tips of their tongues, whereas CCS is not.

Well, giving the G8 delegates the benefit of the doubt, I would choose to substitute the words “carbon capture and storage and nuclear power” wherever “clean energy” appears in the text.  Then, let’s read ¶27 on clean energy again, and see if it makes sense:

27. We promote clean energy ^carbon capture and storage and nuclear power^, given its importance in tackling climate change and for the enhancement of energy security, by setting national goals and formulating action plans followed by appropriate monitoring. We believe that there are significant and growing economic and employment opportunities in this sector.

We recognize the important role of renewable energy in tackling climate change and in the long term reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.

We underscore the importance of sustainable biofuel production and use. The same should apply for the broader use of biomass for fuel, heat and electricity. We support the work of the “Global Bioenergy Partnership” (GBEP) and invite it to work with other relevant stakeholders to develop science-based benchmarks and indicators for biofuel production and use. We are committed to continuing research and development of second generation biofuel technologies.

Note that they “promote clean energy ^carbon capture and storage and nuclear power^, given its importance in tackling climate change and for the enhancement of energy security,” yet merely “recognize the important role of renewable energy in tackling climate change”.  Nuclear power is what these countries will, undoubtedly, promote for reasons of energy security (which they consider of strategic national importance) as well as tackling climate change (which is an inconvenient global challenge), and they are under pressure from scientists to do something about carbon capture and storage, though I am still not convinced that the CCS message is really getting through to decision makers, because they appear to be infatuated with nuclear dreams …

Also, see the difference in emphasis on G8 determination to act immediately:

“We promote clean energy ^carbon capture and storage and nuclear power^, … by setting national goals and formulating action plans followed by appropriate monitoring.”

 versus their recognition of, but lack of action:

“We recognize the important role of renewable energy … in the long term reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.”

That ¶27 thus leads naturally to ¶28 on nuclear … and, skipping a few paragraphs, leads in a less direct way to ¶31 on carbon capture and storage.

So, there you have it:

  • Nuclear power is in.  It even has an entire paragraph ¶28 dedicated to it, and there’s plenty of enthusiasm for it by policymakers and nuclear industry proponents alike.
  • Carbon capture and storage is included in clean energy technologies, and forms a large part of ¶31.  However, getting ministers to talk about CCS is tough when they prefer singing the praises of nuclear.  Meanwhile, they are still authorising new-build coal-fired power plants without CCS because, as John Hutton tells us, Britain cannot wait!
  • Renewable energy is not quite out, but it is not going to get any specific promotion, nor national goals, nor formulation of action plans, nor appropriate monitoring by these leaders.  Actually, in ¶35 renewable energy does get one further mention, “We call upon banks to set specific targets for low carbon investments like renewable energy”, in this context:

35. We welcome the final report of the Gleneagles dialogue on climate change, clean energy and sustainable development. We also welcome the reports submitted by the IEA and the World Bank on their work related to the Gleneagles plan of action and continue to cooperate with those organisations. We value the useful exchange of views both between member countries and also business and civil society participants and acknowledge the role that further exchanges of this nature can play in supporting action on climate change and the UNFCCC process. We note the significant progress made by the multilateral development banks on the Clean Energy Investment Framework (CEIF) agreed at Gleneagles and welcome their joint level of ambition to mobilise public and private investments of over US$100bn up to 2010 from within existing resources. We call upon these Banks to build on the CEIF to develop comprehensive strategies to guide the integration of climate change into their development work and to set specific targets for low carbon investments like renewable energy.

According to their statement, the G8 succeeded in one fundamental area: they have side-stepped and ducked the most crucial issue—the global imperative of phasing out coal use, unless it is captured and stored underground.

How cheeky of them to lead with paragraph ¶22:

22. We reconfirm the significance of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as providing the most comprehensive assessment of the science and encourage the continuation of the science-based approach that should guide our climate protection efforts. We reaffirm our commitment to take strong leadership in combating climate change …

I suggest that from now on, every time a minister utters the words “clean energy” we press him or her on exactly what “clean energy” means.  I am not against nuclear power, but it seems there is deception going on here on a grand scale, and I think ministers should come clean to the public on that!

Instead of allowing any minister to wax lyrical on the benefits of nuclear power, we need to press firmly on the carbon capture and storage hot button and use that response as “a litmus test for climate change seriousness” (to steal a construction from James Connaughton).

P.S.  On DotEarth Andy Revkin has set up:

The (Annotated) Climate Declaration from the Industrial Powers
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
July 8, 2008, 9:37 am

It includes his insightful annotations, and he is encouraging comments.

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