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The making of a globally sustainable energy system

ucftpe024 November 2016

sustainable world (c) istockphoto

Blog by Steve Pye, Paul Ekins, Ian Hamilton, November 2016

As delegates at COP22 in Marrakech convene to discuss how to implement the Paris Agreement, there is a continuing focus on how to move to a sustainable global energy system. The challenge is that fossil fuels have long been the mainstay of the energy system, and an essential driver of growth. Rapidly reducing our reliance on their use is no small task, but one that is essential if we are to succeed in achieving the climate ambition set out in the December 2015 Paris Agreement.  The challenge is brought sharply into focus when we consider that the global energy system accounts for 65% of anthropogenic GHG emissions[1], but will need to be a net zero-emitter at some point between 2050 and 2100.  (more…)

The Paris Agreement – A Fresh Start?

ucftpdr15 December 2015

(c) IstockPhoto

(c) IstockPhoto

On the 12th December 2015, after (just over) two weeks of intensive negotiations between nearly 200 nations, COP21 of the UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement – a new global commitment to address climate change. All parties were keen to avoid a repeat of the disastrous effort to secure such a global agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, where deep divisions and entrenched positions between counties and negotiating blocs prevented any substantive progress towards a common global agreement. (more…)

The Paris Agreement lacks focus on water

zcfad2115 December 2015

(c) SXCThe world is celebrating the adoption of the Paris Agreement, but the role of water under a changing climate is still sidelined: Time to ride the momentum.

One of the biggest highlights for the water community of 2015 was the adoption of a standalone Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation (SDG 6) on 25th September. The celebrations were high but not long after did the water community’s hangover commence: the first draft negotiating text for the 21st United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) was released late October, 2015 and made no explicit mention to water resources in the upcoming climate change negotiations. As COP21 got underway, several revised versions of the proposed Paris Agreement were made available throughout the two-week negotiation marathon, but all failed to make a single reference to water. Not surprisingly, the final adopted text was no different. (more…)

But what will our world look like?

ucfaete11 December 2015

sustainable world (c) istockphoto

I am in the business of foresight, projections and scenarios. As a scientist I cannot tell you what the future brings nor what our world will be under +2, 4 or 6 degree warming. What I can say, is that as an individual I have deep concerns.

The climate change community has been applying scenario techniques to bridge gaps between the physical and social change that is envisioned due to climate change. The most recent addition is the introduction of so-called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) to describe alternate world futures (O’Neill et al., 2015). These futures can be coupled with different representative concentration pathways (RCPs) that correspond to the language of “+2/4/6… degree warming”. Despite the level of emissions or warming considered under a given pathway, what is clear, is that most of the scenarios pose challenges for our societies in the 21st century.

(more…)

CSP vs PV – Understanding the current situation and future outlook

Seyed Mohammad Mehdi Mohaghegh Ahmadabadi30 November 2015

Solar Panels Out in the Desert (c) iStockPhoto

CSP mirrors in the Desert (c) iStockPhoto

Throughout COP21 our staff and students will be blogging on climate change and sustainability.

Next month, the largest concentrated solar power plant (CSP) in the world will launch its first phase at the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate on the edge of the Sahara desert. The project consists of four plants and could generate 580 MW of electricity. This possibly will be enough to supply electricity to more than a million homes in Morocco. The first phase of the project, called Noor1, has the generating capacity of 160MW. (more…)