The detrimental effects of the behaviour of the fossil fuel majors notwithstanding, renewables have been booming the world over for years and there is little indication that this trend will abate soon.
A new report on the CO2-emissions of some of the world’s major cities has revealed much needed good news: ahead of the C40 World Mayors Summit, it was revealed that 30 of the globe’s most important cities have already peaked their greenhouse gas emissions, indicating that energy transition plans are, in fact, working.
Good news of the his nature seem to have become a rarity recently, with The Guardian publishing a list of 20 most polluting companies in the world only earlier this month. Still, obvious progress on the climate and greenhouse gas emissions front can be seen everywhere and comes in many different forms.
The detrimental effects of the behaviour of the fossil fuel majors notwithstanding, renewables have been booming the world over for years and there is little indication that this trend will abate soon. As early as 2015, the Climate Council of Australia pointed out that “clean energy investment grew in China (32%), the US (8%), Japan (12%),Germany (3%) and the UK (3%)” and that “800,000 jobs were created in the renewable energy sector globally between 2012 and 2013”, with countries that are investing in long-term renewable energy policies being those with the greatest growth potential.
It is clear that renewable energy sources like wind and hydro play a main role in this success, but so does nuclear power, especially in Europe and North America. Norway, for instance, benefits greatly from its vast hydro resources, which makes it one of Europe’s most consistently “green” countries. Other countries less blessed in natural resources like that do nevertheless make the list as well.
Besides Norway, “we have two other countries that are consistently always green in Europe”, says Swedish energy consultant Staffan Qvist. The reason for this is the smart use of nuclear power in combination with renewables. “Basically, there are three regions in the world that are always green. That’s Sweden, France and it’s over Canada in Ontario, always green 24/7 and they’ve done this in the same way, just a combination of renewables and nuclear power.”
France has been a low-carbon top-performer for years, which is directly related to its extensive nuclear fleet that is covering 71 percent of the country’s energy needs. Using nuclear energy, France’s emissions have been falling over the last 25 years, and even if French president Emmanuel Macron’s 10-year energy plan envisions the shutting down of several reactors in the future, the positive effects will likely continue to be felt.
That nuclear has a crucial complementary role to play in lower carbon emissions is no secret, but awareness of this is generally low. According to Bernard Salha, director of France’s EDF, “Part of recognizing nuclear is the fight for clean energy mix and actually getting politics to sign on to that, which I think that should be a priority.”
But apart from public sentiment, nuclear regulators are not helping in making nuclear power more acceptable, thereby hindering its advancement in this important point in time, he criticizes. “In this space, I think it is about regulatory engagement. We want to happen that the regulator is independent but able to have foresight on technologies coming forward and be ready to regulate at the appropriate time.”
This way, large-scale decarbonization could be achieved faster and in a more effective manner. However, this shouldn’t distract from the fact that low-carbon energies are advancing across the board. As such, the fight against global warming isn’t over yet.
Image credit: Lenny K Photography/Flickr