Balancing Objectives at COP21

By Liu Baowen
Executive Editor, Cornerstone

The international scientific advisory body on climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has set a clear goal for delegates at COP21: Construct an international agreement to limit global temperature rise to 2˚C. In fact, the IPCC’s recommendations have been clear for years, yet each year the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to increase. Having the technical backing for a global goal on climate has, to date, proven insufficient to yield a workable agreement. The reason is likely differing perspectives and competing objectives for negotiators, including avoiding infractions on national sovereignty, maintaining national economic growth, advancing poverty alleviation, financing low-emissions technologies, ensuring a fair playing field, and more.

Liu Baowen

Liu Baowen – Executive Editor, Cornerstone

Still, there is hope that a growing number of national and regional governments and industry players believe reducing emissions is important, not just for the environment, but also to protect sustainable development. The collaborative R&D and international knowledge sharing being demonstrated by SaskPower and its first-of-a-kind Boundary Dam CCS project is just one example.

The cover story in this issue, written by a long-time attendee of COP meetings, makes a strong case for the importance of engagement with business and industry, which will provide technical solutions and financing and can contribute to an agreement at COP21 and the resulting emissions reductions. For example, much of the innovation in recent years in low-emissions technologies can be applied to the coal industry, such as high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) power plants, integrated gasification combined cycle, and circulating fluidized bed combustion, just to name a few. The development of carbon capture, utilization, and storage saw a major advancement with the startup of the Boundary Dam project in 2014. With further development, even CO2 capture from air could play a role to counteract historical emissions. With numerous technologies in the development pipeline, it is critically important that negotiators and regulators do not attempt to choose technological winners and instead support a suite of technologies.

There are about 1.3 billion people with no electricity today and coal and other energy sources will be needed to provide it to them. Many of these people live in developing Asia and other locations where there are considerable coal reserves. Thus, as developed countries continue to rely on coal and developing countries expand coal use, engagement on technology development is imperative for emissions reductions. COP21 provides a real opportunity to create a framework to accelerate technology development and deployment. The coal industry is engaged and is already pursuing a first step through increasing the application of HELE technologies.

This issue of Cornerstone is focused on the opportunities and challenges associated with COP21. On behalf of the editorial team, I hope you enjoy it.

The content in Cornerstone does not necessarily reflect the views of the World Coal Association or its members.
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