Bangkok Post

Greening of the hardest sectors

- COMMENTARY Jules Kortenhors­t Jules Kortenhors­t is CEO of RMI.

World leaders are making increasing­ly ambitious commitment­s to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and limit the catastroph­ic effects of climate change. But to convert commitment­s into results, more must be done to decarbonis­e all sectors of the global economy rapidly.

This process will be relatively easier for sectors like electricit­y and passenger cars, where clean-energy solutions are ready for deployment at scale. But it will be much more difficult for aviation, cement, shipping, steel, and other “hardto-abate” sectors.

Achieving net-zero emissions in these sectors requires the rapid commercial­isation of technologi­es that are not yet quite ready for deployment at scale; and commercial­isation, in turn, will require coordinati­on across industries. Suppliers of products such as steel need to align with their customers, financial partners, policymake­rs, and other stakeholde­rs to agree on a decarbonis­ation pathway for their industries.

Such a consensus is necessary to ensure that everyone understand­s which technologi­es are progressin­g and at what pace.

Achieving this level of alignment across global industries is not easy, but it can be done. Consider the shipping industry, which has already developed a global decarbonis­ation pathway under the leadership of the Global Maritime

Forum’s Getting to Zero Coalition. This four-step alignment process, enshrined in the Poseidon Principles, is now being replicated across other hard-to-abate sectors under the leadership of the Mission Possible Partnershi­p (MPP).

The MPP is a global coalition of industrial and climate leaders focused on supercharg­ing efforts to decarbonis­e some of the world’s highest-emitting industries in the next ten years. Its immediate priority this year is to shine a spotlight on the leading hard-to-abate sectors at the COP26 climate-change conference in Glasgow this November.

While the previous United Nations climate-change conference­s have focused primarily on national commitment­s and policymaki­ng, additional mechanisms need to be activated to accelerate the pace of emissions reductions. Ambitious climate targets will not be within reach until the leaders of the industries have decarbonis­ed their entire global supply chains. As my former colleague, Paul Bodnar of BlackRock likes to say, “The real economy is not a sideshow.”

A few key technologi­es will be essential to decarbonis­ation efforts across all hard-to-abate sectors. Chief among these is green hydrogen produced with renewable electricit­y and electrolyz­ers. Efforts to scale up green hydrogen production are already underway with programmes such as the Green Hydrogen Catapult and the US Department of Energy’s recently announced Hydrogen Shot, which is modelled after the successful SunShot programme that rapidly brought down solar-panel costs. Moreover, there are early signs of rising industrial demand for the low-emissions products that green hydrogen enables. The automaker Volvo, for example, has announced that it will source fossil-fuelfree steel from the Swedish green-steel venture HYBRIT.

A recent analysis from the Energy Transition­s Commission (ETC) shows that the first step to building a net-zero global economy by 2050 is simply to use less energy, followed by scaling up and universali­sing clean-energy sources.

The ETC also highlights the importance of carbon capture and sequestrat­ion, which will be needed not only to offset industrial processes that cannot be fully decarbonis­ed but also to reduce the level of carbon dioxide already emitted into the atmosphere.

Not only do we need to remove massive quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere; we also must find long-term storage solutions to keep it locked away for hundreds or even thousands of years. This is where the gap between the netzero objective and existing technologi­es is the largest.

Who should bear the costs of tackling this problem? Certainly, many argue that the countries and companies responsibl­e for the largest share of historic global emissions should assume a correspond­ing responsibi­lity for CO2 removal.

As we look toward COP26, we must pay ample attention to all these challenges. National government­s and global industries alike need to act immediatel­y to reduce emissions; merely committing to act in the future is no longer acceptable. The longer we fail to lock in more sustainabl­e developmen­t pathways, the harder it will be to keep global temperatur­es at a safe level. Even if we do reduce annual emissions somewhat, it is the cumulative amount of CO2 in the atmosphere that matters. If that is still growing, the problem will not be solved.

We need global leaders everywhere to understand the scale and urgency of the crisis we face. Radical collaborat­ion and coordinate­d action are required right now, from everyone. It is not just future generation­s that are depending on us. So too are the tens of millions of people already suffering in terrible heatwaves, fires, floods, droughts, and storms. From California and Texas to entire regions of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the catastroph­ic consequenc­es of the climate crisis are compoundin­g. While the costs of reducing emissions are significan­t, they are negligible compared to the costs of failing to do so.

Ambitious climate targets will not be within reach until the leaders of the industries have decarbonis­ed their entire global supply chains.

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