IChemE Energy Centre responds to US withdrawal from Paris Agreement

This press release was published on the IChemE Media Centre.

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COP22: What next? – Q&A from the IChemE Energy Centre’s latest discussion on climate change

Last week (Thursday 12 January), the IChemE Energy Centre welcomed participants both online and in person to discuss the outcomes of ‘COP22 – what next?’.

COP22

Hosted by Chair of the IChemE Energy Centre, Professor Stefaan Simons, at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), UK, participants first heard from Board members Dr Rachael Hall, Model Site Lead – Severn Trent Innovation Team, and Mark Apsey, Technical Services Director – Ameresco Limited, about their experience at COP22 in Marrakech.

This was followed by Dr Alison Cooke, Founder and Consultant – Cooke Associates, who gave a brief overview of what it’s like to work with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) as a mechanical engineer.

The audience was then invited for a discussion on on the outcomes of COP22 and the next steps we must take to implement the Paris Agreement.

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Was #COP22 the COP of action? #InvestPlanet

COP22, or the 22nd Conferences of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has come to an end. Billed as the ‘COP of action’ by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, an estimated 25,000 people descended on Marrakech, Morocco to start the process of implementing the Paris Agreement.

Flags of COP22However, COP22 had a lot to live up to, following the historic result of the Paris Agreement at the conclusion of COP21. All the countries of the world were invited to attend COP22, but only the countries who had ratified the Paris Agreement had decision- making authority.

The Marrakech 22nd Conference of Parties ran from 7-18 November 2016. It was also the 12th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12), and the 1st Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1).

The IChemE Energy Centre went along for the second week of COP22 to ensure that the voice of the chemical engineering community was heard. This started with our side event – Investing in the Planet: Green banks and other financial tools to scale-up mitigation technologies – which the Energy Centre co-hosted with the Grantham Institute from Imperial College London and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Side event panel

Side-event panel

The event looked at practical solutions to implementing the Paris Agreement, with the help of chemical engineers and financial institutions. Dr Rachael Hall, from the Energy Centre Board, gave the first presentation, an overview of deployment technologies available to mitigate climate change. Rachael outlined pathways to a zero-carbon economy, as demonstrated in IChemE’s technical policy document Chemical Engineering Matters.

Mark Apsey, also a Board member of the Energy Centre, gave his presentation on the pathways for organisations to deliver energy efficiency projects. Outlining various ‘road blocks’ to implementing greener energy solutions, Mark made it clear that he felt that more needed to be done to incentivise delivery.

Watch the side event on YouTube.

COP22’s interesting side-event programme was jam-packed, and this year saw an increased focus on technology solutions for and the investment required to mitigate climate change.

Mark said: “From IChemE’s perspective Chemical Engineering Matters has been created to not just cover energy, but water, food, and wellbeing – which are really trying to look at the whole system, as well as specific solutions to energy problems”.

The UNFCCC needs more chemical engineers at the table proposing feasible solutions for mitigating climate change and applying a systems thinking approach to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Ban Ki-moon

Ban Ki-moon addresses COP22

COP22 was also Ban Ki-moon’s last COP conference. The Secretary-General of the United Nations until the end of the year, he spoke about the success in ratifying the Paris Agreement, which was announced just last month: “Countries have strongly supported the Agreement because they realize their own national interest is best secured by pursuing the common good. Now we have to translate words into effective policies and actions. This is critical to protect our planet, safeguard the most vulnerable and drive shared prosperity. Low-emission development and climate resilience will advance all the Sustainable Development Goals”.

An inspirational figure in the fight against climate change, Ban Ki-moon’s presence will be missed.

The aim of COP22 was to spend the conference working out a clear work plan for achieving the targets set in the Paris Agreement, however the UN has set a target of 2018 to have these plans finalised. This meant that a large proportion of COP22 was spent ‘fleshing out’ the Agreement’s fine print. This included financial support, which will have a massive impact on developing nations. Much of this year’s discussions surrounded the funding gap to research, and scale-up and implementation of the technology solutions to reduce carbon emissions.

During the CMA plenary, parties adopted the agenda and the organisation of work. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa reported that, as of 16 November 2016, 110 parties to the Convention had deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement, representing more than half of Convention parties (at time of writing this figure is now at 111).

Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, UN Environment, said that the current pledges are insufficient to reach the Paris Agreement’s goals, but cited opportunities to “bend the emissions curve.” This means that we have to act now to ensure we implement climate mitigation strategies. Chemical engineers have a key role to play in solution implementation and applying systems-thinking.

47-renewablesDuring the conclusion of COP22 there was some exciting news, 47 countries from the Climate Vulnerable Forum committed to going 100% renewable as they adopted the ‘Marrakech Vision’.

Almost 200 countries gathered in Marrakech to work out the details of implementing the Paris Agreement. This deal established the overarching global goals for tackling climate change, but didn’t include the detail of how we get there. This left COP22 with a lot of complicated work to do.

Despite being billed as the COP of action, COP22 was instead the COP of discussing the next steps required to implement the Paris Agreement. However, this was a very necessary step if we are to successfully halt catastrophic climate change.

You can read the latest version of the COP22 proceedings by following this link.


If you were at COP22 please get in touch and tell us how your work is saving the planet.

Putting the Paris Agreement into action at #COP22 #InvestPlanet

Yesterday the UN’s 22nd session of the Conference of Parties (COP22) commenced in Marrakesh, Morocco. 20,000 delegates from 196 countries are expected to attend and discuss how to turn the COP21 Paris Agreement into action.

What happened at COP21?

Stef Simons, Energy Centre Chair, speaking at COP21 earlier today

Professor Stefaan Simons, Energy Centre Chair, speaking at COP21 in 2015

COP21 was arguably one of the most historic meetings in terms of mitigating climate change. On 12 December 2015 the world united in an agreement to take action, and 197 countries signed the Paris Agreement which made each country take responsibility for recognising and combating climate change.

The central aim was to limit global temperature rise this century to well below 2°C over pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5°C. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

And we were there too! The IChemE Energy Centre published its Climate Communique and Supporting Statement in October 2015, identfying five priority areas where technology should be deployed to help mitigate climate change:

  • energy efficiency
  • energy storage and grid management
  • carbon capture, storage and utilisation
  • nuclear
  • sustainable bioenergy

Energy Board Centre Chair Professor Stefaan Simons hosted an official side event at COP21: Technology solutions for a 2oC world: Investing in renewables, storage, energy efficiency and CCS. If you missed it you can watch it all on our YouTube channel and read a write-up of the event and our follow-up talks in London.

Ratification

The Paris talks concluded that 197 countries had adopted the Agreement, but the real commitment would be shown through ratification. The Agreement was opened for ratification on 22 April 2016 at the UN Headquarters in New York. Parties representing 55% of the global greenhouse gas emissions needed to be accounted for in order to make the Agreement ‘entered into force’.

The biggest emitters of CO2, including China and USA ratified at the beginning of September, causing a number of other countries to follow.

Last month the threshold was achieved, and on Friday 4 November, it was confirmed that the Paris Agreement had officially been entered into force. This means that it is now down to each country to start planning and implementing actions to reach the agreed targets.

The UK is still yet to ratify, despite the European Union making an official admission on 5 October. Currently 100 out of the 197 parties who adopted the Agreement have ratified.

What is happening at COP22?

COP22

Positioned as the ‘bridge’ between decision and action, COP22 will define the mechanism for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. This covers funding, climate change policy, and technology deployment.

The ratification of the Agreement is incredibly timely, and encourages this Conference to concentrate on the emissions targets and goal of achieving a zero carbon economy by 2050.

The idea is to spend the conference working out a clear work plan for achieving the targets, and the UN has set a target of 2018 to have this finalised. This will involve some ‘fleshing out’ of the Agreement’s fine print, including financial support which will have a massive impact on developing nations.

Join IChemE at the talks

While the conference has already started, our presence at the talks kicks off on Monday 14 November. We will be holding a side event in collaboration with The Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The event – Investing in the planet: Green banks and other financial tools to scale-up mitigation technologies – will focus on the financing and policy mechanisms required for deploying low carbon technologies. The event will make sure to highlight that financing is essential for both mitigation and adaptation, and in the broader context of the sustainable development goals.

Not going to be there in person? The event will be live-streamed on YouTube, so head over at 11:30 – 14:00 (WET) on Monday 14 November.

We’ll also have a stand at the exhibition, to help raise the profile of chemical engineers and advocate their role in mitigating climate change. Working with the IChemE Energy Centre, we will be spreading the word about how chemical engineers will help to deploy the technologies needed to meet the global targets.

Come and visit us at our stand.

You can also follow all the action on Twitter, just search #InvestPlanet.