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lee beck cop27 panel

Scaling zero-carbon technologies for a clean energy transformation at COP27

November 17, 2022

In the second week of COP27, CATF’s Senior Director for Europe Lee Beck moderated a high-level panel at the European Union pavilion that focused on one of the biggest questions in climate: how can countries around the world deliver the climate technologies needed to fully decarbonize the global economy? 

A full suite of advanced climate technologies will play a crucial role in reaching climate goals. While increased deployment of already-commercial renewable technologies like solar and wind energy is essential, the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Roadmap for the global energy sector finds that 50% of emissions reductions in 2050 are expected to come from technologies that are not yet available at scale — such as carbon capture and storage, advanced nuclear energy, superhot rock energy, and zero-carbon fuels like hydrogen or ammonia.  

The discussion convened global leaders from the U.S., EU, and Namibia, including Executive Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, and Presidential Economic Advisor and Green Hydrogen Commissioner at the Government of Namibia James Mnyupe. And from investments in clean tech, to diversifying partnerships and focusing on energy security, panelists emphasized the need for multiple climate tech solutions to meet the climate challenge. 

“We must decarbonize, but we don’t need to deindustrialize,” said Executive Vice-President Timmermans in his opening statement. “Years ago, I was reluctant to accept the premise that new tech could help. It seemed like a fig leaf to polluters. But now that I’ve been doing this for some time, I see these developments in tech happening so fast.”   

Panelists also highlighted policy advancements in the U.S. and EU that have created critical financing opportunities and incentives for climate technologies and clean energy infrastructure. In the U.S., the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act coupled with the Inflation Reduction Act form a close to half-a-trillion-dollar investment in climate infrastructure, putting the U.S. back on track to meeting its nationally determined contribution — a 50% reduction from 2005 greenhouse gas levels by 2030. In Europe, the European Green Deal, Fit For 55 package, and REPowerEU Plan lay a pathway for 55% of emissions reductions by 2030 while ending dependency on Russian fossil fuels through renewable energy and advanced decarbonization technologies. The EU Innovation Fund, with an increased budget of €3 billion euros, is poised to support these projects, building atop an existing €4.5 billion in grants and loans, and billions in national-level investments.  

Secretary Granholm underscored the impact of these climate policies, saying “Since the Inflation Reduction Act was passed we’ve had companies announcing $30 billion in clean energy projects to tap into those tax credits. This is helping us create that industrial backbone to increase our energy security. It’s tech agnostic so long as it’s zero-carbon.” 

While large economies such as the U.S. and EU have a responsibility to take steps to shorten deployment timelines in next mover markets, advancing region-centric visions for scaling climate technologies in developing nations will be crucial to both global decarbonization and development imperatives. 

“In the U.S. and EU we’ve seen tremendous progress with the IIJA and IRA. In the EU we’ve got the Fit for 55, all of which can be leveraged globally,” said Beck. “Because of course the goal is not just a clean U.S. and EU. That’s not the end goal, it’s just the beginning.” 

During the panel, Commissioner Mnyupe outlined what this region-centric framework could look like in Namibia, discussing the country’s vision for becoming a zero-carbon fuels provider, and how they are working to enable an innovation ecosystem. In particular, he highlighted Namibia’s opportunity to become an exporter of clean energy to existing electricity grids, reducing energy costs for communities and contributing to regional security.  

Mnyupe also highlighted Namibia’s work with the EU as an example of the importance of transregional cooperation: “Partnerships don’t always need to come in the form of complex documents or billions of euros, but they sure do help. We’ve mobilized more than $130 million in climate finance. Without the EU working with us, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’re doing.” 

Together, these transatlantic policies and investments form key building blocks in commercializing and scaling climate technologies for global availability — reducing costs, enabling learning by doing, and creating a shared vision for a resilient and secure global energy system. Leaders in advanced economies must find ways to form durable partnerships with those in the developing world, setting a strong foundation for indigenous innovation and industrial and manufacturing investment.  

“The visions our speakers have laid out today are clear: We need technology optionality — carbon capture, nuclear, hydrogen, geothermal and more. We must unleash trillions in funding to drive deployment at pace and scale. And we must invest in workforce development and develop new collaborations, deepening and widening trade,” Beck said. 

See here for the full video of the event. 

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