Connecting Knowledge and People
Second day of the COP20, and the plenary is full of delegates discussing the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). The atmosphere is really hot, like if we could feel the 2 degrees temperature rise due to climate change, and delegates are discussing the beginning of the draft and how it would look in a screen.
The ADP document is very important, because it aims to define the new climate agreement in 2015 and foster greenhouse gas reduction. This fits into climate science and its latest outputs: during this last year, IPCC asked for a phase out on greenhouse gas emissions by end century, and UNEP for 2070. This would make accomplish Article 2 of the convention, and ‘prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system’. But how this will be done has yet to be decided in the two coming long weeks.
Phase in and phase out – what does the COP say?
The ADP draft text mentions the strong necessity of reaching carbon neutrality. Article 3 suggests a ‘40–70 per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions below 2010 levels by 2050 and near zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases by the end of the century’.
A part from that, there are parties that are thinking about their individual contribution to a carbon-free world. Some countries like Ethiopia, Finland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Norway, France and Georgia, committed to carbon neutrality. In fact, Costa Rica recently made reference to a possible goal of zero emissions by 2050. Initiatives from cities, communities and individuals can also be found all over the world, trying to contribute to this urgent necessity of making greenhouse gas emissions disappear.
The phase out target is great, but negotiators of the ADP text should consider including something even more relevant: a phase in target: a serious promotion of renewable energies and a cut on fossil fuel investments.
Worryingly, there are country pledges that consider nuclear as a nice way of creating a transition from fossil to renewable energies, or just a way of diversifying their energy mix and having more energy security. The narrative of nuclear being good, carbon-free and safe needs to be countered, or nuclear plants could start proliferating.
Nuclear energy is definitively not the solution
Nuclear power is increasingly appearing in conversations related to climate change. For instance, the last big US-China agreement includes nuclear and green caoal as low carbon sources that China will promote. Furthermore, Julie Bishop Australia’s minister of foreign affairs said that nuclear power could boost Australian economy, and is re-opening the nuclear debate in the country, due to its uranium potential. And the European Union is not better than that, with France having 58 nuclear plants which produce 73% of its electricity, followed by Belgium (52%), Slovakia (51%) and Hungary (50%). Greenpeace recently published a list of the most dangerous nuclear plants in Europe due to its age, especially pointing Spain that has extended the life of some of them. Sadly, this week begins the trial of 17 activist of this same organisation that were protesting against nuclear power in Spain, and now are facing jail.
Nuclear energy is not only dangerous, it is also unjust and polluting. There are reports that demonstrate that, with high quality ores, the CO2 produced by the full nuclear life cycle is about one half to one third of an equivalent sized gas-fired power station. Therefore, nuclear energy does contribute to climate change by producing greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, nuclear energy perpetuates a very polluting and unjust mining industry. Numerous reports of international organisations denounce the impacts of uranium mining on the environment (air, soil, water) and the effects that can have on people’s health. Apparently we are not listening to that, and just recently China made some moves on buying part of uranium mines, such as Langer Heirich in the Namib desert.
Maybe there is still hope, and renewable energies will boom these coming years. We have seen great signals from Germany, which just announced that wants to cut emissions by 40% by 2020, a much ambitious goal than the UE package proposed. Furthermore, Spain had 43% of energy generation based on renewable energy this November, despite this obsession that they seem to have cutting finance to renewable energies and promoting energy industries based on nuclear.
But hoping is not enough, negotiators need to promote a phase-in discourse in the ADP text, so we ensure that we are building a future that is powered by renewable energies.
This article was originally published in adoptanegotiator.org.
© Anna Pérez Català
Suggested citing: Pérez-Català, P., 2014. ‘Phase out Fossils. Phase in Nuclear?’ [Online]. Available at: https://climate-exchange.org/2014/12/06/phase-out-fossils-phase-in-nuclear/ %5Baccessed + date when the website was accessed].