Dr Tom Mason, co-Founder and CEO at London-based Bramble Energy give his views on the role that science and innovation must play in combating climate change.
“The facts are clear: we must limit warming to 1.5C. Thanks to science, that is feasible – the technologies are already available.” Yesterday Sir Patrick Vallance spoke at COP26 Science and Innovation Day, making it clear that science is the solution to limiting any further damage to our fragile planet. However, the ‘pledges’ being made at COP26 have unfortunately not had the desired effect on limiting global warming to 1.5C
The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) calculated the world is heading for 2.4C of warming and warned COP26 “has a massive credibility, action and commitment gap” There is no greater time for ambition and action, and we already have the innovation available that can make the difference we so sorely need.
Science and the dedication of its experts is how we determined where we are today and the extreme changes, we must make across the globe to save our planet from utter destruction. There is no more time for words, and we must move to full blown action if we are to rectify the damage that has been caused.
However, just as science has provided the information which has brought us to this moment in time it can also offer us a wealth of information to develop a plan of action moving forward.
It’s time to be bold and invest.
The innovations we need to combat climate change already exist thanks to a vast array of dedicated individuals and businesses willing to push the envelope for the greater good. We must be bold now and invest in putting these innovations into practice, not just on paper.
The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) most recent report ‘Net Zero by 2050’ tracks the progress and development of clean energy technology worldwide. It has highlighted that almost half the CO2 reductions required by 2050 will come from currently demonstrable technologies, with a real need for major investment from both public and private sectors to overcome the financial challenges we currently face scaling these technologies.
Yesterday at COP26, 23 governments including the UK announced new ‘missions’ as part of the Mission Innovation Initiative, adding to the three that were declared earlier this year. The missions laid out so far aim to accelerate innovation and be the catalyst needed to jumpstart investment. The countries involved want to work together on the development of clean technologies for cities, industry, carbon dioxide removal, and the production of renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials. Mission Innovation’s ‘innovation missions’ now cover sectors responsible for more than 50% of global emissions. These include transitioning cities across the world where energy consumption is the highest and most concentrated to adopt clean energy technologies with 50 ‘blueprint’ cities planned globally. The initiative is also focused on hard to abate sectors such as chemicals, steel, and cement. This is where we need to see a real push on making low-carbon materials and industrial technologies affordable.
Hydrogen is one of these innovations that requires our investment, research, and development. There are several areas where it has already been identified as an optimal clean energy solution but the time to scale is now. We must move from demonstration to fully operational by the end of this decade. The initiative has talked about a huge drive towards decarbonising hydrogen production and making it accessible as a clean energy solution across sectors, but we have to make this happen by investing in infrastructure, its associated technologies and carrying on research into improving efficiency.
The UK COP Presidency along with Italy have also formed a global partnership, leveraging the power of science and innovation to address key challenges blocking the path to a Net Zero future. Bringing together countries from across the world and pooling the scientific expertise they have to offer aim to bring a different voice to policy making which could hopefully bring down the barriers around specific Net Zero challenges. Whether the approach of this partnership will allow us to completely move these roadblocks out of the way is yet to be determined but where science can provide us with the insight to make adaptations, policy must give us the room to implement them.
There is no ‘silver bullet’ technology, no single piece of science or a single country that can deliver a solution to climate change and limit global warming to the point where we can live sustainably but working together and sharing the information and solutions, we have at our fingertips is the only way we can move forward. The resources and the development of innovative solutions are already there for us to benefit from and a collaborative approach across industry and government globally will give us a fighting chance for a clean and stable future.