December 2015 marked a landmark international agreement to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. This agreement, made at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, France, came into force last month on November 4, the 30th day after at least 55 parties, representing at least 55% of GHG emissions, formally accepted the agreement. At the time of writing this column in mid-November, 110 parties had ratified the agreement according to the United Nations website (unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php).
November also marked the gathering of participants for this year’s Conference of the Parties, COP22 (November 7–18), in Marrakesh, Morocco, where action and implementation of the Paris Agreement were high on the agenda. Continuing worldwide focus on climate change is stimulating action on many fronts.
Technology leaders mobilize
Investments in technology to address climate change globally are on the rise. On November 4th, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI; www.oilandgasclimateinitiative.com) announced a $1-billion investment over the next ten years to develop low-emissions technologies, such as carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), and reducing methane emissions. Investments to improve “energy and operational efficiencies in energy-intensive industries” were also cited in OGCI’s announcement. The OGCI is led by CEOs of ten major oil-and-gas companies, including BP, CNPC, Eni, Pemex, Reliance Industries, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total. Saudi Aramco president and CEO Amin Nasser said “Technology-enabled solutions are key to managing climate change, and this announcement by OGCI to collectively fund $1 billion is paramount to our long-term commitment in meeting rising energy demand.” He further described the OGCI as a “wider industry-led response to climate change.”
Several months ago, construction and commissioning of a $122-million commercial carbon capture facility on a steel plant, the first in the Middle East, was completed. The project for Emirates Steel Industries was the first project under Al Reyadah, a joint venture between Masdar (www.masdar.ae) and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC; www.adnoc.ae). The facility is expected to capture 800,000 tons/yr of CO 2. The Global CCS Institute (www.globalccinstitute.com) has called this project a “critical milestone in making industrial carbon capture and storage a commercial reality.”
There is much work to be done to attain the goals of the Paris Agreement and the scientific and industrial communities are clearly making progress on the technological fronts. There has been some concern and uncertainty about the future momentum of the Paris Agreement in light of the changing political leadership in the U.S. What is good for the environment, however, can also be good for business. Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute (www.wri.org) stated that “…smart climate action can promote economic growth…” Economics can be the driver to help keep the momentum going. ■