By Kang Joo-myung
The global debate about climate change and the role of energy is at a critical juncture. That debate in recent years has been intense and loud, but we have not come far in aligning on an approach that enables us to meet the enormous challenges of decarbonization, energy access and energy security.
In the coming months, we have a real opportunity to do so ― with President Joe Biden's Climate Summit, the G20 meeting under an Italian presidency and COP26 under the leadership of the U.K. It will require a clarity of purpose and approach that has been lacking to date. This is not the time for politics and self-interest. We have to settle on an approach that delivers clean, secure and affordable energy.
Last week, heads of state, ministers and senior government officials, academics, non-governmental organizations, energy industry leaders and thought leaders virtually connected at CERAWeek 2021 to share their views and discuss the many complex issues relating to "Energy, Climate and Charting the Future."
A concern that emerged throughout the discussions is that the world is not on a path to meet the Paris Accords ambition of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. This has prompted calls from many for "aggressive and achievable" plans to be developed and implemented.
Also last week, the United Nations issued an updated report on National Determined Contributions, covering 75 new Party Submissions and about a third of the world's total emissions. The combined impact of the new actions on emissions would result in a less than 1 percent emission reduction by 2030. To get to the 1.5 degrees Celsius pathway that reduction must amount to 45 percent.
There is recognition that different nations face different challenges and have different means to achieve a pathway toward Paris. For billions of people in the developing world ― with low CO2 per capita and low access to energy ― there is no greater challenge than achieving an affordable, secure and clean energy supply. In richer nations ― with high CO2 per capita ― resources and infrastructure are in place to accelerate decarbonization.
The International Gas Union believes an achievable transition is one that delivers clean, secure and affordable energy, using electrons and natural gas and hydrogen molecules, and the necessary infrastructure to help individual countries meet the UN Sustainable Development and Paris Goals. Continued calls for only electrical pathways to Paris targets is a setup for failure on both Paris and the Sustainable Development Goals.
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry noted last week that he didn't "object to fossil fuels." Nor should anyone. The target of the Paris Accords is to reduce emissions, not target particular fuels, or technologies, or pathways. No justice will be served if achieving the Paris targets involves actions that stymie economic growth and prosperity, or that deny billions of people access to much-needed affordable energy and clean cooking fuels. Picking only electrical pathways will lead to lost opportunities, higher costs and a slower transition for millions of people.
Many examples have come forward through presentations at CERAWeek demonstrating technology and innovation that is being deployed to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels, to increase efficiency in energy use, to remove emissions, and to improve measurement and quantification technologies to facilitate the identification and reduction of methane emissions.
The gas industry supplies natural gas to energize all six continents, to enable the scale-up of intermittent renewables, and to produce hydrogen. This puts us at the forefront of environmental innovation to reduce emissions. Our members on three continents are involved in producing hydrogen and renewables gases and the pipelines we use offer the pathway for renewable natural gas and hydrogen.
The International Gas Union calls on decision makers to accept that a clean, secure, and affordable energy future requires electrons, molecules, and infrastructure. Let the energy industry innovators compete to see how best this can be achieved by a variety of means, and in so doing ensure the greatest opportunities for citizens around the world ― the opportunities a just transition should provide.
Kang Joo-myung is president of International Gas Union, having more than 160 association and corporation members from the gas industry, representing over 95 percent of the global gas market.
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