Solutions for Climate Change: the IAEA and COP

Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of our time. If the world is to meet the agreed climate goals within the available time frame, we need mature, readily deployable solutions.

The International Atomic Energy (IAEA) attends the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP, and organizes several events to highlight how nuclear technology and applications contribute to tackling climate change. Nuclear power provides 10% of the world’s electricity and more than a quarter of global low carbon electricity. Nuclear sciences and technologies help in analysing and increasing understanding of climate change and coping with its consequences.

What do nuclear sciences and technologies bring to the table?

Nuclear power makes a significant contribution to climate change mitigation. The use of nuclear power has avoided the equivalent of around 70 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the last half century. Nuclear power already provides the bulk of clean energy in several countries. In the future, nuclear power can help to decarbonize hard to abate sectors such as transportation and industry and play a significant role in 2050 carbon neutrality, including by producing low-carbon hydrogen. See our pages on nuclear power and climate change.

  • Nuclear power can partner with all low carbon technologies for Net Zero

All low carbon technologies are needed to achieve net zero targets. Nuclear energy with substantial mitigation potential can partner with all other low carbon technologies and support the integration of renewables in low carbon energy systems.

  • Nuclear power can drive decarbonizing beyond electricity

In addition to providing 24/7 electricity supply, nuclear power is one indispensable low carbon, large scale heat source able to replace or decarbonize fossil fuels for industrial heat and hydrogen production.

  • Nuclear power can build energy resilience, reliability and security 

Nuclear power can ensure a secure, reliable and resilient energy supply. Operating on demand, irrespective of weather, nuclear power can stabilize the grid in systems with high shares of variable generation, while contributing to security of energy supply.

  • Nuclear power contributes to affordability

Nuclear power can underpin an affordable, low carbon energy system by minimizing the amount of energy generation that exceeds demand and the need for expensive flexibility and storage infrastructure.

Nuclear sciences and technologies complement conventional climate adaptation and climate science technologies and approaches in the following areas:

  • Food and nutrition security

Nuclear sciencies and technologies are used to assess and adapt to the impacts of climate change on food and agriculture. They contribute to the development of climate-smart agricultural practices and more productive and resilientcrop varieties and livestock. These enhance food and nutrition security, building resilience to changing climate.

  • Water security

Nuclear techniques are used to understand the water cycle, providing countries with essential data about how much water they have, its quality and how long it will last. This information enables resource managers to strengthen national water security and resilience planning.

  • Ocean and climate

Nuclear sciences and technologies are used to collect and analyse data on the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems, supporting efforts to address the potential biological effects and impact on marine life and coastal economies under projected ocean acidification scenarios.

  • Nature-based solutions for mitigation

Nuclear sciences and technologies support the development, application and assessment of nature-based solutions that avoid, absorb or sequester carbon dioxide emissions including blue carbon, carbon sequestration in agriculture and optimized animal practices and manure management. 

Meeting ambitious goals requires collaboration

Nuclear power has a lot to contribute. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said,  “To be pro-nuclear is to take our long-term responsibility to this planet and its future generations seriously”.

As the only world forum in the nuclear field, the IAEA contributes to an informed debate on the benefits of nuclear power and nuclear applications by providing the scientific and technical facts at international forums, including COP, where political leaders, industry, scientists and civil society discuss the way forward.

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