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Climate Change Forum Discusses Nuclear Power

IAEA at the United Nations Climate Change Conference

climate change, toth, COP20, COP, UNFCCC, hydro, wind, mitigation, peru, lima, conference of parties

Hydropower, nuclear power and wind power are the lowest greenhouse gas emitting energy sources. (Photos: Korean Ulchin NPP/IAEA; Doug Young; Mohammad ; D.E. Shropshire/IAEA)

Lima, Peru — A mix of solar and wind energy, carbon capture storage technology and nuclear power could provide a viable solution to countries seeking to decrease their carbon footprint by lowering the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) of their energy sector. This was the message from the IAEA at this year’s annual United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference — COP20 — held last week in Lima, Peru.

The aim of the conference was to identify viable climate change mitigation strategies and pave the way towards a successful global climate agreement by 2015.

“The global demand for electricity is increasing, but we also need to reduce GHG emissions. We’re now discussing ways to expand low-carbon energy portfolios that will help both our environment and our economies,” said Ferenc Tóth of the IAEA’s Planning and Economic Studies Section at the UN technical briefing on the Mitigation of Energy-related GHG Emissions held during the conference.

The session discussed energy-related GHG emissions, included a keynote by the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and speakers from the IAEA, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative.

Agreeing on how to globally reduce and mitigate GHG emissions has been a key topic at the conference. The IAEA informed delegates about the challenges of GHG mitigation, how mitigation goals can be achieved and the likely consequences of inaction on the environment.

Towards low-carbon energy

Tóth highlighted the double challenge countries face in meeting the rising demand for energy and at the same time mitigating climate change. He emphasized that energy planners need to explore several low-carbon energy sources and technologies. He explained that hydropower, nuclear power and wind power are the lowest GHG emitting energy sources, and that the mitigation portfolio recommended by the International Energy Agency (IEA) includes solar, carbon capture storage, wind and nuclear technology. These low-carbon technologies have relatively low external costs and also help to alleviate air pollution, which is mostly caused by sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) released during the combustion of fossil fuels.

UNIDO’s Nina Zetsche described climate resilient industries, the use of energy efficiency in industry, and renewable energy solutions for industrial processes.

WTO’s Devin McDaniels presented possible strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of international trade, and Minoru Takada from SE4ALL described the challenge of providing universal energy access while reducing GHG emissions. Increased energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy are necessary to simultaneously achieve both goals.

IPCC Chairperson, Rajendra K. Pachauri, was a keynote speaker at the session, and he explained the benefits of climate change mitigation for building a better and more sustainable world. He advocated for timely action to reach zero carbon emissions before the year 2100.

In 2009, countries agreed under the Copenhagen Accord that an increase in global mean temperature should not exceed two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, in order to avoid irreversible damage and interference with global climate systems. The aim has been to reduce GHG emissions at the lowest possible economic and environmental cost.

Unfortunately, since 2009, the trend has not changed and global year-on-year GHG emissions have risen. A major emitter is the energy sector, as the majority of electricity generation relies on the burning of fossil fuels — releasing the GHG, carbon dioxide (CO2). Governments around the world have been looking for ways to reduce CO2 emissions while maintaining economic growth and development.

Last update: 26 Nov 2020

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