By ditching coal for biomass, Japan and South Korea are embracing false hope of a zero-carbon future
The assumption that burning biomass can replace or mitigate coal’s negative effects is not just questionable science, it is dangerously undermining coal phase-out plans in Japan and South Korea.
Last year, my colleagues and I [Tomos] took a close look at Britain’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter. It’s not a coal plant – at least not any more, really.
Since 2012, Drax Group has been transitioning out of coal; its last coal-fired plant is expected to shut down later this year. Drax is now the biggest biomass-based electricity producer in Europe – mostly using compressed wood pellets – thanks to what we estimate will be more than £10 billion (US$13 billion) in subsidies.
These subsidies are provided under the premise that burning biomass is carbon neutral, that all the carbon released from burning trees is reabsorbed when new trees are grown. This logic is no longer supported by the latest scientific evidence, which shows that burning wood for power is often not carbon neutral, and can be more polluting than coal.
Our recent analysis found that Drax is the biggest emitter in Britain, pumping out 13.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from its chimneys in 2020. This also makes it the European Union’s fourth-largest carbon dioxide emitter among coal plants when biomass emissions are included.
Reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 — and thus limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels — implies profound economic and societal shifts. According to a new report, a successful transition would have six key characteristics.
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“The Frontiers Report identifies and offers solutions to three environmental issues that merit attention and action from governments and the public at large,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.
Noise, Blazes and Mismatches: Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern, the sixth report, draws attention to emerging environmental concerns with the potential to wreak regional or global havoc, if not addressed early.
Annual climate summits are a flurry of new corporate commitments, and Glasgow was no exception. However, what set this year apart was the level of skepticism from participants, activists and even companies about whether these pledges would result in sufficient and measurable action. The world is expected to reach a 1.5 degrees C rise by the early 2030s, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Whether we limit warming to this level and prevent the most severe climate impacts depends on actions taken this decade.
Business can be a force for good, innovating and scaling solutions to climate change. Or it can perpetuate outdated systems that profit from practices that threaten our collective future. In a speech given at the climate summit, Ugandan youth activist Vanessa Nakate urged corporate leaders to, “Show us your trustworthiness. Show us your honesty. I am here to say: Prove us wrong.”
So, what did the private sector promise at this year’s conference? These are three key topics that stood out for us at COP26.
Hosted by: PFAN (Private Financing Advisory Network) and REEEP (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.
Who are they?
PFAN: Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN) is a global network of climate and clean energy financing experts. PFAN aims to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs developing climate and clean energy projects, as well as private sector investors. PFAN also strives to build clean energy markets one business at a time, reduce climate change and organise private investment in support of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals. You can find out more about PFAN here.
REEEP: Similar to their counterpart PFAN, REEEP (Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership) develops resourceful financing mechanisms to strengthen markets for clean energy services in low and middle-income countries. Their vision is of a world where everyone, regardless of income, have access to affordable low carbon energy services. Their mission is to advance market readiness for clean energy and energy access in developing countries, especially for the benefit of vulnerable populations. Both of which are in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (in particular SDG7 – energy – and SDG13 – climate) as well as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement. You can find out more about REEEP here.
Partnering with clean energy experts PFAN and REEEP, our Director, David Yeo will be hosting and opening this webinar as one of the key speakers. This webinar will be held on the 5th of August, which you can register for here.
Author: Ong Xuan Lin
From International Oil Company to Integrated Energy Company: bp sets out a strategy for a decade of delivery towards net-zero ambition
New strategy sees bp:
Pivoting to low carbon energy and customer focus
Focusing resilient hydrocarbon business on value:
Delivering on net zero ambition
Delivering long term value for shareholders