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by John Brian Shannon | December 29, 2015
COP21: The Paris Agreement is nothing if it isn’t followed-up with concrete action to meet the new emission reduction targets
The COP21 Paris Agreement is the first time that many nations have declared their intent to actually do something in regards to global warming, instead of the vague expressions and hand-wringing that we’ve seen until Paris 2015.
One should rightfully expect that LEADERS from each nation will appear at future COP events to discuss their nations’ successes (and any legitimate failures) as they navigate towards their intended carbon targets.
1. Some nations will seek to meet their COP21 targets via greater ENERGY EFFICIENCY
And that of course, is the best ‘bang for the buck’ route with regards to energy use and CO2 reduction.
No matter how energy is produced, some amount of CO2 will be created. Therefore, each MegaWatt(MW) of energy that remains unused, results in zero CO2 emissions.
This can also be the case where a mixed grid employs clean, renewable energy.
Both solar and wind power feature zero emissions as standalone energy generators — however, in a mixed grid with various energy generators, from coal to nuclear, to gas-fired and biomass, and true renewables like hydro-electric, solar and wind — once all of the renewable energy capacity is exceeded, the other electricity generators must then ramp-up to match the total demand of those hours of the day.
See how utility companies choose the type of energy they use to meet electrical demand on a minute-by-minute basis: Merit Order – How Utility Companies Choose Energy
With increased energy efficiency, many MW of electricity will never be required in the first place, therefore, the need for non-renewable energy generation diminishes.
2. LEAVING COAL is the next best way to meet carbon reduction targets
Many people are unaware that natural gas burns up to 1,000,000 times cleaner than the dirtiest brown coal (lignite) and up to 10,000 times cleaner than the cleanest black coal (anthracite).
Non-CO2 Emissions caused by coal burning: Quite apart from Carbon Dioxide emissions, burning coal produces significant amounts of toxic airborne mercury and heavy metal vapours, and toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and the lung-damaging particulates like smoke, ash, and soot.
Then there are the thousands of tons (Alberta only) or millions of tons (globally) of fly ash that must be transported and safely buried far from aquifers.
Obscene water usage levels are also a factor with coal use, as coal requires 1100 gallons of water per MW, while natural gas requires only 300 gallons per MW.
CO2 Emissions caused by coal burning: In regards to the Carbon-Dioxide-only component of airborne emissions, burning natural gas emits only 45% of the CO2 compared to coal on a per MW basis.
By simply converting every coal power plant in the world to natural gas, global CO2 and toxic airborne emissions would fall by many Gigatonnes.
I suggest that it’s an important enough goal that IMF, ADB, UNDP and UNEP money should be flowing to developing nations to help them convert to natural gas by 2020.
Yes, I said by 2020.
We’re either serious, or we’re enjoying our time at the COP confabs.
It’s time to actually accomplish something on the Earth Atmosphere file, instead of producing more sound bites.
Harvard University Medicine says that coal-fired power generation causes up to half a trillion dollars of damage annually to the U.S. economy. Maybe more. And that’s just in the U.S.A.
3. Coal could be part of the solution instead of part of the problem – via significant investment in Coal-to-Liquid (CTL) fuels
Since 1955, South African gasoline (petrol) has been blended with super clean CTL fuel — which has a measurable and positive effect on vehicle emissions in the country.
The percentage of CTL to petrol has been rising over the decades as CTL capacity has increased. SASOL now blends a minimum of 30% CTL fuel into their petrol, which results in a very clean burn and lower engine maintenance.
Some South African airlines use clean CTL (coal oil) as a simple drop-in replacement for conventional petroleum (kerosene) fuel. Unlike conventional aviation fuel, CTL fuel is completely smokeless (and, bonus!) jet engines using CTL fuel require less maintenance.
CTL fuel blends reduce CO2 emissions for aircraft and cars and light trucks by 50% — and non-CO2 airborne emissions such as sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter (smoke and soot) are virtually eliminated.
Thanks to the FISCHER-TROPSCH (catalytic) process, super clean-burning CTL fuels can be created from even the dirtiest brown coal.
4. We can’t have enough renewable energy capacity, especially now that it has attained price parity with conventional energy
As a long term goal, we need to get to 50% renewable energy and 50% (any combination of natural gas and nuclear) for our primary energy generation in order to hit a reasonable CO2 target of 366PPM (the much advertised 350PPM CO2 target is noble, just that it’s utterly impossible to hit as long as there are 7 billion people on the planet) yet 366PPM is theoretically possible were all the stars were to align, and is a noble enough goal in itself.
Many nations have already hit their renewable energy targets, with some exceeding 90% of demand met by renewable energy.
Laos, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Nepal, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zambia, Mozambique, Iceland, Albania, Paraguay, Bhutan, Lesotho, Tokelau, all get more than 90% of their primary energy from renewable sources.
Some are now at, or very close to, 100% renewable energy. For instance, Costa Rica hit the 99% renewable energy mark this year. In 2016, Costa Rica is likely to become a renewable energy exporter.
Denmark produced 140% of its primary energy demand in 2015 with renewable energy. Some 40% of Denmark’s electricity was exported to neighbouring countries in exchange for for cold. hard, cash.
And Scotland hit its 2030 target (50% renewable energy) way back in 2014. At the rate Scotland is adding renewable energy to its main grid and microgids, it may reach 100% renewable energy before 2040.
So it can be done.
SUMMARY: If we as a species, simply increase our total energy efficiency by 30% (a reasonable target) and legislate all coal-fired power generation to convert to natural gas by 2020 (merely accelerating what is already occurring due to market forces) and continue our present level of coal extraction for the purposes of creating super-clean CTL fuels, we would (by those changes alone) give ourselves an extra 15 years to find the best solutions to our pressing airborne emissions problem.
Again, the IMF, ADB, UNDP, UNEP, U.S. Dept of Energy, the EPA, COP21 sponsors, the World Bank and major corporations should be setting a good example with massive investment.
Finally, thanks to Bill Gates for his LEADERSHIP and PHILANTHROPY not only at COP21, but over the past decades — directly improving the lives of many people on this planet and supporting real and positive change in our shared global commons.
- Adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP21 (UNFCCC)
- The Paris Approach to Global Governance (Project Syndicate)
- Bill Gates Leads Billionaires in $2 Billion Climate Investment (Bloomberg)
Coal to Gas Switch Dramatically Lowers CO2 Emissions
CO2 reduction opportunity: “Natural gas prices are low, gas storage levels are at an all-time high, and winter has started off much warmer than normal across the US. Factor in the Clean Power Plan (CPP) finalized in August, aimed at cutting CO2 emissions from power plants, and it’s clear to see that natural gas is poised to take even more power generation market share away from coal in 2016.” — from “Coal-to-Gas Switching in 2016” by of BTU Analytics
Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley has recently unveiled Alberta’s Climate Change Task Force recommendations and as a result, greenhouse gas emissions in Canada are expected to fall dramatically by 2030 as Alberta phases-out all coal-fired power plants. – Ed
Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions have shot up since 1990. Could the province learn from Ontario?
Monika Warzecha | November 25, 2015 6:52 PM ET
More from Monika Warzecha | @monikawarzecha
Though Alberta and Ontario make up the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, the provinces have been on entirely different trajectories over the last decade. The two economic powerhouses accounted for about 60 per cent of Canada’s total emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013, according to Environment Canada.… (more…)