GHGT-14. Opening Plenary


By Keith Burnard

26 October 2018

Following welcome addresses from an auspicious array of local and national dignitaries – David Byers, Tim Finnegan, Kelly Thambimuthu, Richard Bolt and James Johnson – the long-awaited and keenly-anticipated GHGT-14 was finally underway. The Opening Plenary began.

Thelma Krug, IPCC Vice-Chair, was first to the podium where she provided insights on the recently-published special report on global warming of 1.5°C. Drawing on more than 6,000 studies, 91 authors from 40 countries considered the impact of a 1.5°C rise in temperature above pre-industrial levels and presented potential pathways to limit global warming accordingly by 2100. Ms Krug pointed to findings that showed a 2°C rise rather than 1.5°C would lead to extreme warming, rain and aridity, with melting of ice sheets and glaciers resulting in substantial rises in sea levels. Reducing CO2 emissions 45% (from 2010 levels) by 2030 and reaching net zero by the turn of the century would require a concerted effort to reduce emissions from power and industry, where CCS and CDR would play crucial roles. Indeed, of the four model pathways presented in the report, she stated that the pathway with no CCS or BECCS was not potentially feasible. Ms Krug recognised that enormous knowledge gaps remained regarding CCS and CDR and expressed the hope that at least some of them would be resolved for inclusion in the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report due for publication in 2021.

Next up was Laszlo Varro, the IEA’s engaging and insightful Chief Economist. In discussing the role of innovation in energy transition, he emphasised that policy and financial innovation was equally as important as technical innovation, and that progress in all three would be necessary to underpin the broader deployment of CCS. Whereas oil was the energy driver for the 20th century, Dr Varro opined that electricity would be the principal medium for the 21st century … and, crucially, CCS would play a major role in providing the low-carbon electricity required. In affirming that coal was still the number one source of global electricity, he pointed out that, while coal use had been declining in the west for decades, in Asia more than 650 GW of coal-fired generation plant was less than 10 years old, much of it appreciably more efficient than the best performing US plant. This was particularly significant when considering that IEA scenarios show that CCS could contribute 14% of the cumulative CO2 emissions reductions to 2060 compared with business as usual, with the contribution contingent on achieving some extremely ambitious goals relating to decommissioning of coal plants and reducing load at those that remained.

BHP’s Vice President, Fiona Wild, then came to the podium to discuss the role of companies in accelerating technologies. She began by emphasising BHP’s ambitious goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050. To illustrate her premise that more could be achieved collectively with other stakeholders, she described BHP’s many collaborations with organisations in a range of countries, including their joint effort with SaskPower in setting up the International CCS Knowledge Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan. Memorably, Ms Wild proclaimed that if individuals or organisations were not serious about CCS, they were not serious about 2°C … an aphorism that many in the audience could immediately relate to. She said that, while companies such as BHP were committed to action, governments still had a vital role to play. Along with the setting of a market-based carbon price, policy support was essential.

Last up was Jérôme Schmitt, a senior executive at Total and Chair of OGCI’s Executive Committee, who shared a number of his firmly held convictions about CCS with the audience. He said there was no silver bullet for CCS to reach its potential, but rather a merit order of solutions. While stating that CCS was more about cooperation than about competition, Mr Schmitt emphasised that CCS was a business. Companies dealing in the business were there to make money and create value: without this realisation, CCS would not proceed. Very importantly, he stated that CCS was about education … in fact, education, education, education! Academic establishments, he felt, needed to hold more degrees in carbon management. While agreeing with the previous speaker that the role of governments was crucial, Mr Schmitt declared that almost no government in isolation was likely to put the needed policies and funding in place; governments would need to be addressed in parallel and act collectively if CCS was to play its role in addressing climate change. Created in 2014, OGCI now had 13 member companies covering most continents. The year 2019, he said, would be a critical one for OGCI, when its CCS Roadmap would be launched. OGCI’s role was to engage in developing and promoting science and market enablers. 

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