The annual Conference of Party (COP) meetings have become the focal point for climate action with COP 21 in 2015 bringing in the Paris Agreement and the subsequent events developing the actions for its implementation.
While the energy sector is outside these discussions, nevertheless the outcomes have a significant impact on it as a major contributor to emissions and the opportunity to move to low carbon electricity supporting not only their regular customers in the residential and commercial sectors but also the decarbonisation of the transportation sector.
COP 24, which has taken place in Katowice, Poland over the first two weeks of December, has continued this work, with a key outcome being agreement on various principles on issues such as adaptation, finance and transparency. For example, on reporting and monitoring, as of 2020 countries will need to communicate their climate plans and report on their greenhouse gas emissions every five years, while every two years a transparency report shall be published.
With this, energy sector participants also can expect similarly more stringent oversight with additional pressures to meet renewables targets and additional reporting requirements.
Another outcome was the pledging of additional support for funds including the Green Climate Fund, which supports initiatives in developing countries, the adaptation fund and the fund for the least developed countries.
According to a report released at the event by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), UN Environment and World Bank Group, an “unprecedented transformation” of existing infrastructure systems is needed to achieve the world’s climate and development objectives. The OECD estimates these require an investment of $6.9trn per year up to 2030.
Quoting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the report points out that a pathway consistent with 1.5oC warming requires renewables contributing 70-85% of the electricity supply in 2050, with coal disappearing from the mix at that time.
To date the renewables focus has been primarily on wind and solar. However, a side discussion on alternative energy sources at COP 24 considered that over the next five years modern bioenergy is expected to lead the way in the development of renewable resources.
The greatest potential is envisaged in European countries and in the emerging markets of China, Brazil and India, the participants felt.
Data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) indicates that in 2017 the bioenergy capacity reached almost 109GW, which amounts to just 5% of the global installed renewable capacity.
According to the meeting report, innovation is considered necessary to accelerate the development of advanced biofuels from so far unexploited raw materials. The three main factors contributing to the development of innovation are technological incentives, market demand and adequate support.
Biofuels are expected to have significant potential in the transport sector for powering aviation and shipping, in addition to contributing to the growing renewable energy mix. The major barrier that has limited their use to date has been the cost of production.
A high level initiative of relevance to the energy sector was the announcement of the Katowice Partnership for Electromobility ‘Driving change together’. Initiated jointly by the Polish and UK governments and fast gathering support from other countries as well as international organisations and companies, its aim is to advance the development of electric transport globally.
A key focus of the partnership is to build international cooperation on e-mobility including the exchange of experiences among participants and scientific collaboration at global and local levels. In support, a new $3bn fund for electromobility is being set up by Poland together with the World Bank within the framework of the Mobility and Logistics Trust Fund (Fundusz Powierniczy Mobilności I Logistyki).
Areas envisaged for funding include research and development in technologies related to electromobility, construction of infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs), creation of an incentive system for buyers of EVs, the setting of targets related to electric fleets and public procurements.
“Our Partnership makes electromobility a permanent part of global climate policy,” states COP 24 President Michał Kurtyka.
Participants will gather at the first of what is intended as annual e-mobility forums in the autumn of 2019 in Poland.