Following the start of the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Alberto Troccoli, the managing director of World Energy & Meteorology Council at the School of Environmental Studies at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, told NE Global on November 2 that clean energy technologies are important to keep net zero goals by 2050 within reach and reversing the effects of climate change.
“I think the 2050 target is a good target. I don’t think that we can achieve net zero by 2050. It will probably be a bit beyond, but a lot depends on the new technologies and, obviously, the strict targets. The targets, for example, to get rid of petrol vehicles by 2030 in the UK or Europe. That’s a very strong incentive…The storage and use of hydrogen – and in some cases, nuclear as well – increases the share of nuclear in countries where they have it and have planned for it. Then, of course, current coal plants, like in Germany, still have a few but they are planning to shut them down finally,” Troccoli said.
Each of these goals depends on how quickly the new technologies come on line, with hydrogen being the most uncertain in that group.
“Batteries are there, but with batteries, there is a question of their efficiency and raw materials. We can use them even if in some cases they are not so environmentally friendly. We need to work on that, on recycling. There is also a discussion now about wind farms because many of them are more than 10 years old, and they are much less efficient than the current ones. It makes sense to upgrade and get more energy out of them,” Troccoli said, adding, “There is no perfect solution, but it’s much better than having coal pollution. Another strong point that Arnold Schwarzenegger is now advocating is the focus on pollution. Like we discussed last year, with the reduction of pollution due to Covid, the emissions overall did not really decrease because now all the economies are pushing beyond what we were doing before,” Troccoli said.
The former California governor has called for a focused, hopeful message that targets pollution rather than turning the public off with constant alarmist messages and sanctimonious speeches from radical climate activists like Greta Thunberg.
“The way I see it is pollution as something you can relate to, something you can see and you can breathe,” Troccoli said. “It’s very annoying, for example, I saw so many cases here in Australia when it’s just a little bit warm, people sit in the car park and instead of opening the windows, they close them and run the engine so they can run the air conditioning. It’s so stupid. When it’s hot you can understand it, but even then I think you just leave the car and move somewhere else. People don’t really understand it’s all the little things that contribute to the quality of air and ultimately the pollution and greenhouse gases and so on. If we start with something that is closer to us, then we will be able to get more people to understand what is involved in the transition to a new energy system and, of course, making the system more efficient as well,” Troccoli said.
Regarding the COP26 summit in Glasgow that runs from October 31 – November 12, Troccoli noted that Australia is still very dependent on fossil fuels, especially coal.
“The plants now I think they are kind of aligning to the global targets but there is a lot of greenwash in what the current government are selling. I wouldn’t be so certain that what they are saying is going to happen. I think they are now trying to position themselves to be seen as a kind of being on the same wavelength as everybody else, but they are thinking something else. It’s a similar situation to Saudi Arabia and Russia where there is reliance on coal, oil and gas on exports,” Troccoli said.
He also noted that even though Chinese President Xi Jinping is not attending, China sent a very experienced negotiator, climate envoy Xie Zhenhua, who has been negotiating on previous UN climate conferences as well.
“China would want to just flesh out what was done in Paris to make sure what was agreed i is going to be achievable because they left out all of the details. Whereas the US, for example, and the EU would like to push for stricter targets, that’s not what China wants to do. You have seen that the goal of net zero is within the China policy, as well, so that’s good.”
On November 2, Xie reportedly rejected a plan pushed by the US and EU of committing to keeping the rise in global temperatures below 1.5°C, rather than the Paris Accord’s target of “well below” 2° C and ideally 1.5°C, warning that amending the Paris Agreement’s temperature target risked destroying consensus and unraveling the talks.
Overall, there are some positive messages, Troccoli told New Europe, adding, “It’s also a question of balancing the negative messages that we are doomed and the positive messages that are becoming more evident with David Attenborough, who has a more optimistic view. I think that’s what is needed now instead of just focusing on the fact that temperatures are increasing and emissions are rising. It’s out of control. There’s so much we can do”.