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Humanity will be unable to combat climate change without profound transformations in the way it generates energy.
Two such transformations have been recently announced, one in Singapore, the other in USA.
In Singapore, a team of scientists of the Nanyang Technological University have developed a new type of ultra-fast recharging batteries which are claimed to charge a car battery up to 70% of capacity within five minutes. This breakthrough will revolutionise e-mobility in terms of range and costs and make electric cars superior to the most efficient diesel vehicles.
European manufacturers should therefore urgently reassess the situation and adapt their proven, but old-fashioned engine technology at the risk of losing out to US and Chinese competitors.
The new batteries will provide us with truly clean motor vehicles and give a powerful boost to solar and wind energy, because millions of cars may form big energy storage systems helping to overcome the inherent intermittences of renewable energies.
Separately, the US defence company Lockheed has announced a breakthrough in fusion energy. Within a year it will build a test reactor to be followed five years later by a prototype of a 100 MW reactor of tiny dimensions (2×3 meter!).
Assuming the problems linked to nuclear fission, in particular safety and waste storage, to be solved this might usher in an era of non-fossil electricity generation based on wind, solar, biomass and nuclear fusion.
The demand for oil and gas will also fall dramatically as the global car, shipping and possibly even aircraft industry will phase out the internal combustion engine, say by 2050, reinforcing the decline of C02 emissions.
Add to these two technological breakthroughs the introduction of a magnetic super high-speed train by the Japanese railways until 2045.
Running at a speed of up to 500 km/h the train will largely replace domestic air transport, also a significant source of C02 emissions. The Japanese industry will no doubt export the new train to other parts of the earth, from North America, to Brazil, Argentina, Russia and Europe, with the consequence that there too it is likely to replace domestic air traffic on distances of less than 1500 km.
The news from Singapore, USA and Japan unfortunately show that Europe has lost its momentum in coming up with courageous technical and political solutions both to tackle climate change!
We are closer than ever to technical solutions allowing for a largely emission-free future. By establishing strict emission targets heads of government will help accelerate the technological breakthroughs that are arising on the horizon.
In conclusion, one year ahead of the World Climate Conference in Paris, there is reason for guarded optimism, provided policy makers will show the courage to fix ambitious long-term targets and avoid getting again lost in minutiae.
Brussels 20.10 2014 Eberhard Rhein
President, Hon. Heads of State and Members of the European Council,
Orgalime, the European engineering industries association, whose members’ annual turnover is some 1800 billion euro and which employ over 10 million staff in the EU, is writing to you to urge you to adopt of an integrated European 2030 Energy and Climate Change Framework at the occasion of the European Council meeting on 23/24 October 2014.
Such a decision is urgently needed to encourage investments into innovative areas of cutting edge technologies that will pave the way towards Europe´s future low carbon, energy efficient economy with higher levels of energy independence, greater security of supply and overall sustainability of the energy system.
We believe that a binding EU 40% lead carbon target, coupled with EU-level commitments for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources beyond 2020, will provide a new impetus for sustainable growth and jobs in Europe and will overall boost the competitiveness of EU industry.
We particularly welcome the fact that the Commission has now closed the gap in its initial 2030 Framework proposal with a 30% energy efficiency target*, which we consider as both, feasible and reasonable, provided that the right instruments for implementation are put into place.
Indeed, if Europe wishes to deliver on its carbon target, control energy prices, increase the integration of renewables into its energy system and become world leader in this area, action inevitably needs to go hand in hand with energy efficiency and the development of an integrated energy system, including interconnected infrastructures. Increasing the efficiency of equipment, which is often reaching its technical limits, will not suffice. The challenge is to better exploit the energy savings potentials at system and market level, which requires a future energy retail model that facilitates greater involvement of energy end users and distributed generation in a truly consumer-centric, competitive energy market.
This can only be achieved through instruments, such as the governance process, the Energy Efficiency and Energy Performance of Buildings Directives rather than through further product regulation under the Ecodesign Directive or its pending review, which risks breaking today´s delicate balance between cost efficiency, environmental improvement, product functionality and affordability.
To conclude, we call upon European regulators to set in place a robust 2030 Energy and Climate Change Framework in support of the EU´s Industrial Policy, and particularly the overall aim to reach a 20% share of
manufacturing output in the EU’s GDP by 2020.
Considering the international dimension of this debate, we encourage the EU to make the necessary efforts to obtain a global and legally binding climate agreement at the UN-FCCC in Paris in 2015. It is essential that other regions of the world show a comparable degree of ambition and take similar action.
* Previously, Orgalime felt that a 40% energy efficiency target should be set considering the 2050 perspective. We consider the suggested
30% as a step in the right direction, which should be supported, while we ask for maintaining a forward looking, proactive attitude.
National governments have proven that they do not have what is required to meet the global challenges of climate change and the unsustainable use of our planet’s resources. The shortcomings of the COP meeting since Copenhagen acts as testament to this. With the burden of recession and austerity, short-sighted national governments have thus far shown themselves unable to handle sustainable development issues.
Within the arena of sustainable development, the boundaries of responsibility are undergoing a monumental shift. This allows new actors to take pole position in the creation of new opportunities. Old infrastructures are being replaced by new ones that are better designed to cope with the challenges facing cities and regions.
We should stop directing our attentions and frustrations towards impotent governments. Instead we must focus on more localized models that simmer from below but come to influence and inspire national actors to greater action.
Better levels of engagement and the development of local and international networks have prompted a wider range of actors to become involved in sustainability, from both within and outside the market.
Over the past five years we have seen several strong international networks emerge from municipalities and regions. To get a wider understanding of this phenomenon I undertook some research that shows just how many locally-focussed organizations use their involvement in these networks to bring about sustainable solutions that can have a real impact.
Sweden’ s biggest Political Week event in 2015 – A Challenge for National Governments in front of UN Climate Meeting Paris
Next summer – between the 28 to the 30th of June – the Mayor of the Swedish Island Gotland will invite Mayors from all over the world to the event to debate and prepare to challenge national governments in front of the Paris UN Climate meeting in December 2015. The event is organised by Region Gotland, Stockholm Environment Institute, WWF, The Think Tank – Global Utmaning, The Nordics association, Kairos Future, Club of Rome and Respect Climate.
Send me an e-mail if you are interested to find out more – kaj at embren.com.
Mayors 33 networks that can act are:
1. United Cities and Local Governments - http://www.cities-localgovernments.org/
2. United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) - http://www.afriquelocale.org/en/about-us/uclg-africa
3. Federación Latinoamericana de Ciudades, Municipios y Asociaciones (FLACMA) / Latin American Federation of Cities, Municipalities and Associations of Local Governments - http://www.portalambientallatinoamericano.com/
4. UCGL Euro-Asian Regional Section - http://www.euroasia-uclg.ru/index.php?lang=en
5. UCGL- Asia-Pacific - http://www.uclg-aspac.org/
6. Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) - http://www.ccre.org/en/
7. UCLG-Middle East and West Asia (MEWA) - http://www.uclg-mewa.org/
8. METROPOLIS Network (World Association of Major Metropolises) - http://www.metropolis.org/
9. Union of the Baltic Cities - http://www.ubcwheel.eu/
10. Local Governments for Sustainability – ICLEI - http://www.iclei.org and ICLEI USA / National League of Cities / U.S. Green Building Council’s Resilient Communities for America Campaign:http://www.resilientamerica.org
11. C40 (Large Cities Climate Leadership Group) - http://live.c40cities.org/
12. Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative - http://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/our-work/by-initiative/clinton-climate-initiative/programs/c40-cci-cities.html
13. World Mayor Council on Climate Change - http://citiesclimateregistry.org/
14. Sustainable Cities Network - http://www.sustainablecities.net/
15. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) - http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?typeid=19&catid=540&cid=5025
16. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) - http://www.unisdr.org/campaign/resilientcities/
17. World Bank - http://blogs.worldbank.org/sustainablecities/about-us
18. Cities Alliance - http://www.citiesalliance.org/
19. World e-Governments Organisation of Cities and Local Governments (WeGO) - http://www.we-gov.org/history
20. Mercociudades - http://www.mercociudades.org/
21. Unión Iberoamericana de Municipalistas (Iberoamerican Union of Municipality Authorities – UIM) - http://www.uimunicipalistas.org/#/sobrelauim.txt
22. Federación de Municipios del Istmo Centroamericano (FEMICA) – Federation of Central American Municipalities - http://www.femica.org/
23. Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) - http://www.cdia.asia/
24. CAI-Asia – The Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities and CITYNET (The Regional Network of Local Authorities for the Management of Human Settlements) - http://www.cleanairnet.org/caiasia
25. Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Covenant of Mayors http://cor.europa.eu/en/activities/Pages/priorities.aspx
26. MEDCITIES - http://www.medcities.org/
27. Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and Sustainable Resource management (ACR+) - http://www.acrplus.org/
28.Brazil – Frente Nacional de Prefeitos (National Front of Mayors – FNP) - http://www.fnp.org.br/home.jsf
29.India – City Managers Association of India (CMA) http://www.umcasia.org/content.php?id=67
30. China – China Association of Mayors (CAM) - http://www.citieschina.org/en/
31. South Korea – Governors Association of Korea - http://www.gaok.or.kr/eng/e01_intro/intro010.jsp
32. Canada – Federation of Canadian Municipalities - http://www.fcm.ca/
33. Sweden – Klimat Kommunerna – http://www.klimatkommunerna.se/
Ask the question – mobilise network, organisations and give your voice below or at LinkedIn Rio+
Just how fast can China and Europe change? And just how fast can the relationship between them change? The answer, at least sometimes, is very fast.
A recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicting that solar PV could, in one scenario at least, become the largest single source of electricity generation by 2050 made something of stir recently in the media. The report forecast that at solar PV could possibly account for as much as 16% of global electricity generation by 2050. These forecasts will almost certainly be revised as much can happen in the technology and economics of electricity generation in the next 40 years, but they are an indicator of the possibility for change.
Apart from the possibility that solar power will become a major source of energy, something else in the in the forecast is striking. As the following chart from the report shows, by far the largest growth in solar PV power will come from China. According to the report, at its peak China will contribute about 40% of electricity generation from solar PV in the world in 2030.
This suggests that in the future China will help change the world. However, that future is already arriving. In 2013 China was already the largest single market for solar PV installations in the world, accounting for 30% of net installations (new installations less facilities retired from service).
Chart 2: Share of net solar PV installations in 2013 Source: Earth Policy Institute
This fact reminds us how fast China, and the world is changing. Only a few years ago China accounted for a negligible share of installations. In 2009 China’s share of new solar PV installations was only 2%. The key cause of this change is that since 2011 the Chinese government has vastly increased support to the solar PV generation sector.
In the EU, the opposite has happened. As recently as 2010 the EU was estimated to account for about 80% of global installations, but it has now become a minor market. In 2013 the three leading markets were China, the US and Japan, which together accounted for 61% of installations. In 2009 Germany by itself installed over 50% of the solar PV added in the world, but in 2013 it accounted for only 9%. One of the main reasons for this has been a sharp reduction in support for the sector across Europe, especially in the eurozone, following the onset of the crisis in the EU.
Whatever these figures may say about the future of solar PV electricity generation, If nothing else, they are a reminder that nothing in China is constant, nor even in Europe. And the relationship between them, and their position in the world, can change rapidly.
Germany is in the beginning of its nuclear phase-out to be completed by 2022.
To that end, it has to replace nuclear power accounting for 18% of its electricity supply, compared to more than half from coal, by higher energy efficiency and renewable energy.
It will also have to close some 30 conventional coal- and gas-fired power plants with a total capacity of 7 GW, which can no longer compete against wind and solar electricity.
To cope with these closures north-south grids will be necessary to transport large volumes of wind power, but their construction suffers delays because of technical hiccups and public opposition. German utilities have therefore begun buying electricity from Austrian, Italian and French sources for the winters 2014-2016.
This is to be applauded. European power producers have an intrinsic interest to trade electricity according to daily and seasonal availabilities and costs.
The wider the geographic scope for trading wind and solar electricity the easier will it be to do without “stand-by” power plants: somewhere in Europe hydro, biomass, sunshine or wind should normally be available. Gas-fired stand-by capacities should be an exception, as they are expensive to operate because of low capacity utilisation.
In order to obtain energy security and sustainable supply Europe will need pan European grids and optimal energy efficiency. That will take time and huge investments. The EU has laid out a strategy until 2050 to that end. It should start implementation 2014-20 with support financing from EU structural funds.
Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 10/10/2014