Energy transition

Countries and Companies Accelerate Energy Transition Policies and Plans

The UN says the 2020 Climate Action Summit delivered a surge in progress toward climate goals.

Image of polar bear on ice

The 2020 Virtual Climate Action Summit on 12 December attracted some 75 leaders from around the world, prompting the United Nations (UN) to declare it a major milestone and “a clear signal that the Paris Agreement is working to steeply increase climate action and ambition.”

According to the UN, at least 24 countries, including some of the world’s biggest emitters, joined with regional and city leaders and heads of major businesses to announce a raft of new strategies, policies, and plans to rapidly increase climate ambition and action. The summit was coconvened by the UN, the UK, and France in partnership with Italy and Chile, on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement.

According to one news report, the announcements at or just before the summit, together with those expected early next year, mean that countries representing approximately 65% of global CO2 emissions, and around 70% of the world’s economy, will have committed by early 2021 to reaching carbon neutrality.

Pakistan, for example, announced that it will scrap plans for new coal power plants. India will soon more than double its renewable energy target. President Xi Jinping of China said his country is determined to increase the share of nonfossil fuels in the primary energy consumption mix to approximately 25% by 2030, the same year he said China will bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to more than 1.2 billion kW.

The UK discussed its Energy White Paper, which it released on 14 December. The white paper is considered crucial to providing a legislative framework to underpin numerous policies aimed at one of the world’s most ambitious targets: meeting net zero by 2050 while meeting power demand that is expected to double by that same time.

The white paper puts offshore wind at the core of Great Britain’s push to decarbonize power by the 2030s and includes a pledge to quadruple offshore wind capacity to 40 GW by 2030. It also pushes for 5 GW of renewable hydrogen production by 2030, backed up by a new GBP 240-million net-zero hydrogen fund for low-carbon hydrogen production.

However, the white paper also confirms the UK will continue to look at options to finance “at least one” new nuclear project in the current 5-year parliament. Critics say nuclear is expensive and dangerous compared with renewables, which can now offer gigawatt-scale capacities at far less cost per megawatt-hour. The critics also have pointed to a lack of detailed planning to accompany the UK’s aspirations.

Skeptics and critics throughout the world say that the onslaught of commitments to meeting climate goals must now be backed up with concrete actions, starting now, if we are to achieve these goals. Two recent announcements point to progress in this area.

  • Russian independent natural gas producer and liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter Novatek and Siemens Energy announced on 10 December that they intend to jointly develop and implement high-tech solutions to produce LNG, electricity, hydrogen, and other products to maintain sustainable development initiatives and achieve the their goals to reduce their carbon footprint and increase environmental efficiency. As part of their agreement, the two companies will begin implementing a project to replace fuel natural gas used in the production of electricity and LNG with carbon-neutral hydrogen. Novatek is a major shareholder in Yamal LNG, Russia’s largest LNG-producing project on the Yamal Peninsula. It is also a leader in another of the country’s major LNG developments, Arctic LNG 2, located on neighboring Gydan Peninsula. Siemens Energy is a key equipment supplier for both the Yamal and Arctic LNG 2 projects.
  • Equinor has joined fellow Norwegians Scatec Solar and Norsk Hydro in planning to build a 480-MW photovoltaic plant that would be among Brazil’s largest solar facilities. The partners plan to make a final investment decision next year after signing a memorandum of understanding on the project, at a site in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. Equinor has made Brazil a key plank of its energy transition plans, both onshore and offshore.