Predictable financial flows, technology transfer and capacity building for developing countries are the imperatives sought by South African Department of Water and Environmental Affairs negotiators as they prepare for the global climate change negotiations at Copenhagen (the fifteenth conference of the parties – COP15), in December.
The department’s international cooperation deputy director-general, Alf Wills, says he is hopeful, and very optimistic, that agreement will be reached at Copenhagen, but adds that the deal from Copenhagen will likely be a politically supported framework, with the detail to be filled in further down the line.
Other stakeholders agree that as long as a “strong” agreement is reached and commitments are made within a “strong framework”, this document can be fleshed out after COP15.
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa climate change programme manager Richard Worthington echoes these sentiments, but adds that, should no initial agreement be reached at Copenhagen, this will be “too horrible to comprehend”.
“The future of the Kyoto Protocol and the scaling up of the clean technology market will strongly depend on the outcomes of the negotiating process at COP15,” says Imbewu Sustainability Legal Specialists director Andrew Gilder.
The stakes are high and, as the largest greenhouse-gas (GHG) emitter in Africa, South Africa’s reasons for dwelling on technology transfer are coupled with its desire for con- tinued and accelerated economic growth, while lowering carbon intensity.
As part of the developing world, South Africa argues that it is not responsible for the large-scale GHG emissions, which cause global warming. Thus, like all other emerging nations, it wants a grace period during which it can increase emissions, before using technological advances to enable a high-growth, low- carbon trajectory, and, only then, focusing on mitigation of emissions. Developing nations argue that their policy aims cannot deviate from the serious developmental issues of poverty eradication, education, housing and healthcare.
Breaking the Deadlock
A recent report released by the Climate Group, facilitated by the office of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, entitled ‘Breaking the climate deadlock: technology for a low- carbon future’, states that the right agree- ment at COP15 could provide the spur for international collaboration that will bring down costs and accelerate low-carbon technology diffusion and deployment.
The group explains that a comprehensive technology mechanism must be put in place that sets the scale and pace of the market and direct financial support; defines areas where cooperation will take place; and establishes an institutional structure to measure, report and verify GHG mitigation actions and facili- tate joint ventures.
The mechanism should establish a strong technology development goal to scale up market creation and finance for new technology, and agree to the creation of technology action programmes covering market development, global demonstration, and orphan areas of research for critical technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). This is seen as critical, because it is important to know and understand how locally appropriate certain technologies are – for example, knowing how carbon dioxide (CO2) reacts once injected into South African rocks, with the country’s specific geology, is vital to CCS development locally.
The group further states that the mechanism should reform and scale up the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to ensure it can support technology diffusion in developing countries. It is, perhaps, also important, in South Africa, to note that the CDM has been largely unsuccessful, compared with the experiences of countries like China and India, and that the local barriers need to be dealt with.
Another important outcome of a COP15 agreement, the report argues, would be the establishment of a technology executive board, under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, to oversee the creation of global road maps and technology action programmes. “The board could also contribute to the creation of measurable, reportable and verifiable criteria to track technology action and support,” says the Climate Group.
Another critical technological aim of the agreement that has been suggested by the Climate Group is to establish a protect-and-share framework for intellectual property rights, with capacity building support to strengthen intellectual property rights protection in developing countries and provide a clear framework for using the existing flexibilities in national and international law.
“A failure to act [at Copenhagen] will be disastrous. The cost-effectiveness of interventions also depends on global action,” WWF Living Planet head Saliem Fakir tells Engineering News.
“In any case, whether there is a success in Copenhagen or not, we will have to plan for a low-carbon-economy transition, given our current dependence on fossil-based fuels. There is a special case to be made for South Africa, given the structure of our energy- intensive economy and the need to push it into a more sustainable path,” adds Fakir.
An Imbewu report, compiled under the auspices of the Global Climate Network (GCN) and entitled ‘Development and Transfer of Clean/Low Carbon Technologies in South Africa’, notes that there is strong interest in clean technology in South Africa; however, “there is a need to scale up the clean-technology market according to a national clean-technology road map, developed by different stakeholders and fostering an enabling policy and legislative environment to optimise investment – public, private and inter- national – and the timely commercialisation of scientific research”.
Whether acceleration in deployment of this technology will take place without South Africa taking on emissions reductions is not clear. In fact, whether the country will even take on targets at Copenhagen remains to be seen. “The official position currently is that, while South Africa will not assume emissions reduction targets at COP15, it will take non-legally binding action to reduce its emissions,” explains Gilder.
Department of Energy clean energy division chief director David Mahuma explains that the South African government is not acting irresponsibly. “But if we don’t have strict targets, we won’t push for them. But we will comply, when the time comes to comply.”
South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy is set to be developed by the end of 2010, and the related fiscal, legislative and regulatory package is expected to be implemented by 2012. This, says Gilder, is likely to boost the clean, low-carbon tech- nology market in South Africa.
Technologies Already Exist
In its report, the Climate Group notes that, to meet the emissions reduction goals of keeping global warming below an average increase of 2 ºC, global emissions must be reduced by 19 Gt by 2020, and energy-related emissions by 48 Gt by 2050.
The report argues that the 2020 reduction targets can be met through using technologies already in existence and readily available today; however, investment in future technologies is required to meet 2050 emissions reduction targets.
“Instead of locking in high-carbon infrastructure, countries must agree now to speed up the deployment of technologies with potential for long-term carbon reduction,” the Climate Group states.
This also highlights why the emphasis by South Africa, at the global negotiations, is on technology transfer, and a vital part of this is the funding to do so.
The Climate Group says that 70% of the reductions required by 2020 can be achieved by investing in three areas, namely increasing energy efficiency, reducing deforestation and using lower-carbon energy sources, including nuclear and renewables.
The group also states that the reduction in these areas can be reached by implementing seven policies. These are renewable energy standards; industry efficiency; vehicle effi- ciency standards; fuel carbon content standards; appliance standards; and policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. These policy measures, and direct action, could spark investment by governments and achieve the targets.
The report also emphasises that investment now into technologies of the future is essential if the world is to meet future, longer-term targets. “At the same time, as we deploy existing solutions, we must invest in future options, such as ccs, new-generation nuclear, concentrating solar power and electric vehicles, and the infrastructure, such as smart grids, necessary for them to operate at scale,” says the Climate Group.
New Technology Thrusts
A shift has emerged from pure GHG emission mitigation to so-called ‘climate engineering’, or ‘geoengineering’, which proposes reversing the effects of climate change by using technologies that could, potentially, decrease temperatures.
“The problem with carbon obsession is that it can also, ironically, lead to blind spots and technofix solutions. We haven’t sufficiently explored social options and adaptation strategies. There may be other cheaper options,” highlights Fakir.
He further notes that there are “proposals like seeding the sea with fertiliser and nutrients to increase plankton and the uptake of CO2; large scrubbers resembling cooling towers; replacing dark forests with more reflective grasslands; and more ambitious, large refracting discs in a special space orbit”.
“These technology options involve geo- engineering the earth. They are very controversial, but it is worth having a debate about them. We need to understand them more, although, I think, some may be a bit far-fetched. Some aim to mimic the Albedo Effect, where dense white clouds or volcanic ash have been known to reflect the sunlight away from the earth and, in this way, cool it down by a few degrees,” he adds.
The Guardian, in the UK, recently launched the Manchester Report, a competition searching for innovative ways of mitigating climate change, including ideas for behavioural change or technological or scientific breakthroughs that could tackle global warming. The top 10 ideas focused on CO2 reduction, renewable and nuclear energy, and fuel cells.
However, finalists in the top 20 category included lesser-known ideas, such as giant algae ‘stomachs’, or plastic ‘stomachs’ in the sea, which could be used to digest seaweed farmed on the ocean surface, converting it into CO2 for burial and methane for cooking and heating; cloud-making ships that spray tiny water droplets into the sky, which could increase cloud cover and reflect sunlight away from the earth; and adding lime to the oceans, which has the potential to decrease ocean acidity and reduce atmospheric CO2 levels.
Cquestrate is the organisation behind the idea of adding lime to the oceans. The idea is that limestone is mined and heated until it breaks down into lime and CO2. The lime is then added to seawater, where it reacts with the CO2 already dissolved in the oceans, absorbing almost twice as much CO2 as was produced in the first instance.
Balancing Risks and Rewards
The Climate Group says that technology will be developed and deployed when the private sector sees the right balance of risk and reward – this will require the acceleration of a comprehensive global carbon market and the implementation of practical and collabor- ative technology policies at national and international level.
The ‘Technology for a Low Carbon Future’ report claims that a long-term global carbon price will be essential to pushing technologies through to commercialisation and disseminating them widely. Accelerating the development of national and regional carbon markets and tools to link these together must, therefore, be a priority.
The Climate Group states that access to the international carbon market will reduce the total cost of abatement by up to 20%.
Carbon markets alone, however, are not enough, and carbon pricing does not deal with other potential market failures; it is essential to put domestic legislation in place to ‘decarbonise’ the power, transport, building and industry sectors.
Financial support is needed to enable the deployment of low-carbon technologies, particularly since it is estimated that more than 30% of global abatement by 2030 will be in large emerging economies, such as India and China, and that developing countries will require significant financial flows to enable them to make the necessary investments.
There are a number of differing figures on the kind of financial package that would be appropriate. The question of how much money should be made available by the developed world for mitigation and adaptation in the developing world will be a tough negotiating point at COP15.
Estimates suggest a figure of between $100-billion a year and $160-billion a year between 2010 and 2020. This funding could be through market-based mechanisms, such as the CDM, or through a multilateral financing institution, such as the World Bank climate investment funds.
At a recent meeting of ten Africa Union leaders, a figure of $67-billion in climate change funding for Africa alone was suggested.
In South Africa, the CDM has been un- successful and, among many developing countries, there exists a mistrust of global development finance institutions, such as the World Bank, as there often are conditions attached to financial flows.
The South African negotiating delegation has suggested that a financial commitment of at least 1% of global GDP is needed to enable developing countries to undertake adaptation and mitigation programmes at the scale required.
“No money, no deal,” were the exact words used by South Africa’s negotiators.
The Jobs Imperative
The upside is that, beyond environmental benefits, investment in low-carbon technologies could create jobs and foster growth.
The Climate Group states that Germany created 100 000 jobs in the renewable-energy sector between 2004 and 2006. In the US, it is estimated that producing 5% of electricity by wind power by 2020 would add $60-billion in capital investment in rural US and provide $1,2-billion in new income for rural landowners and farmers, and create 80 000 new jobs.
“Recent studies indicate that there is significant potential for job creation in the renewable-energy field in South Africa, in general, and in the region of 10 000 potential jobs could be generated by solar photovoltaic alone by 2020,” says a study by climate change consultancy Camco.
The Climate Group says that there is also a need for public research, development and demonstration for low-carbon technologies to be doubled by 2015 and quadrupled by 2020.
This would deliver an extra $10-billion to $30-billion to push through key technologies. Countries should prioritise international cooperation for strategically important technologies, such as CCS, concentrating solar power and zero carbon transport.
There have been developments in these areas and, in South Africa particularly, with its heavy reliance on coal for energy generation, a centre for CCS has been established, contributing to the evolution of local tech- nology, with many linkages with the inter- national CCS community.
Indeed, the Group of Eight has agreed to push forward with CCS and committed to ensuring that there are 20 CCS demonstration projects up and running worldwide by 2015.
The GCN report, compiled following inter- views conducted with industry experts by Imbewu, identified a number of clean technologies most appropriate for South Africa. Cleaner fossil-fuel production topped the list, with clean coal technology (CCT), such as pulverised-coal combustion with flue-gas desulphurisation, circulating fluidised bed combustion, and integrated combined-cycle gasification being mentioned.
“CCT is very important. Economically, and given current indications of South Africa’s coal reserves, it is likely that coal will continue to play a significant role in the power sector in this country, and South Africa is, therefore, well positioned to become a leader in CCT,” emphasises Imbewu sustainability legal consultant Marie Parramon.
Energy efficiency is also viewed as important for South Africa, as are renewable-energy technologies, with particular emphasis on solar and wind power, and potential for landfill gas and wave energy noted. Nuclear power, including fuel cells, mechanical alternatives, pumped hydroelectric energy storage, compressed air energy storage, superconducting magnetic energy storage and super capacitators.
“South Africa has the advantage that it has a good scientific base, and can easily adapt and be a leader in certain types of renewable- energy technologies, if it wants to,” says Fakir.