10 ways technology can meet the COP 21 targets

Technology can deliver the COP21 1.5°C target...

...but not at the current rate of progress.

What can be done?

  • We could, from this day forward, generate all our electricity from renewable sources. Sadly, if this was all we did, we would still fall short of the 2-degree goal.
  • We could start using less energy, reducing energy intensity at a much higher speed than the 2.5% we forecast. But annual reductions would need to be 4.8% a year to achieve 2-degrees, which we consider unrealistic.
  • We could capture carbon in enormous quantities. But even if all emissions associated with fossil-fuelled power stations were to be captured, that alone would not be enough. And, given the snail-paced development of CCS worldwide it appears to be a particularly slender straw to clutch at.

Very high carbon prices would force a faster transition, but as the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) in France reminded the world in 2018, it would be a hard sell politically.

There is therefore no silver bullet. If the world is to avoid dangerous warming, policies must be developed to tackle at least three fronts simultaneously: higher energy efficiency, more renewables, and industrial-scale CCS. 

The battle against climate change is not only confined to energy. Policies on land use as well as mandating and encouraging the circular and sharing economies are also critical, as will be incentivizing behavioural change towards lower consumption of goods and services with a high carbon footprint. 

Last year’s IPCC report highlighted that every tenth of a degree of warming matters greatly in terms of climate impact: there are dramatic differences in holding global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C. The technologies to deliver the 1.5-degree target exist: if they are deployed rapidly, their costs will fall quickly, setting up a self-reinforcing effect. However, this can only succeed if enabling policies – for the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement - are dramatically strengthened and enforced nationally. Figure 20 shows how a combination of measures can lead us to 1.5 or 2 degrees. As illustrated, getting emissions down is not only important, but also very urgent. 

Policies must be developed to tackle at least three fronts simultaneously: higher energy efficiency, more renewables, and industrial-scale CCS.

Technology has the power to close the emissions gap to well below 2°C.

At DNV GL, we believe a combination of these 10 measures can get us there:

  1. Grow solar power by more than 10 times to 5 TW and wind by 5 times to 3 TW by 2030, which would meet 50% of the global electricity use per year
  2. 50-fold increase in production of batteries for the 50 million electric vehicles needed per year by 2030, plus investments in more storage and balancing solutions to accommodate the growth of solar and wind power
  3. Invest more than $1.5 trn annually in the expansion and reinforcement of power grids by 2030, including ultra-high voltage transmission networks and extensive demand-response solutions
  4. Within the next decade the reduction in global energy intensity, the energy used per unit of output, needs to happen at a faster rate, going from our current forecast of approximately 2.5% per annum to approximately 3.5%
  5. Improved and cheaper heat-pump technologies and improved insulation
  6. Create new infrastructure for charging electric vehicles on a large scale
  7. Rapid and wide deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage installations
  8. Green hydrogen to heat buildings and industry, fuel transport and make use of excess renewable energy in the power grid
  9. For the heavy industry sector: increased electrification of manufacturing processes, including electrical heating. Onsite renewable sources combined with storage solutions
  10. Massive rail expansion both for city commuting and long-distance passenger and cargo transport