Global governments and major polluters must take urgent action to develop technologies which can capture and store carbon emissions or it will be "virtually impossible" for the world to meet its climate targets, according to the International Energy Agency. The global energy watchdog said carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) projects should play a central role in meeting climate targets as one of four key pillars in reducing emissions. Carbon capture, said the IEA, should sit alongside plans to electrify economies using renewable energy sources, replace fossil fuels with bioenergy and swap methane-rich gas for clean-burning hydrogen in factories, transport and homes. CCUS technologies typically trap the carbon dioxide produced by factories or fossil fuel power plants before they are emitted into the atmosphere where they contribute to global heating. Once trapped, the greenhouse gas can then be piped into permanent underground storage facilities or sold to buyers who can use the carbon to manufacture plastics, boost their greenhouse crop yields or even make fizzy drinks.
It is the near future. You wake in a house warmed by a heat pump that extracts energy from deep below the ground and delivers it to your home. You rise and make yourself a cup of tea – from water boiled on a hydrogen-burning kitchen stove. Then you head to work – in a robot-driven electric car directed by central control network to avoid traffic jams. At midday, you pause for lunch: a sandwich made of meat grown in a laboratory.
Carbon emissions from Britain's electricity system could turn negative by as early as 2033 if the UK uses carbon capture technology alongside more renewable energy to reach its climate targets, according to a report from National Grid. The electricity network operator on Monday set out its vision for an "emissions negative" grid that would include 30m electric vehicles on UK roads, and 8m heat pumps used to replace gas boilers in energy-efficient homes. In National Grid's most progressive vision for Britain's pathway towards its 2050 climate targets it claims that net carbon emissions from the electricity sector could turn negative within 13 years by using carbon capture technology alongside bioenergy sources. Mark Herring, the head of strategy at National Grid ESO, said three of the report's four most-credible pathwaysto a net-zero economy by 2050 meant relying heavily on low-carbon electricity. National Grid expects a boom in renewable energy projects, including at least 3GW of new windpower capacity and 1.4GW of solar generation every year from now until 2050, alongside a widespread rollout of electric vehicles, which will effectively act as smart-charging "batteries" to help balance the electricity grid.
China's President Xi Jinping stunned climate action observers in a speech at the United Nations general assembly last week with a pledge to reach "peak carbon" before 2030, and drive down emissions to virtually zero by 2060. The pledge from the world's biggest climate polluter is considered by environmentalists to be the most important step in tackling the climate crisis since the Paris Climate Agreement galvanised global governments to reduce carbon emissions in an attempt to cap global heating well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrialisation levels. As the world's largest consumer of coal and the second largest consumer of oil – behind the US – China produces more than a quarter of the world's annual carbon emissions. The Climate Action Tracker research consortium has calculated that if China succeeds, its ambitions would effectively shave 0.2 to 0.3 C from global heating forecasts for 2100, down to around 2.4 to 2.5 C above pre-industrialised levels. This is still well above the 1.5 C heating limit that the signatories of the 2015 Paris agreement had hoped to achieve, but it is a step closer.
The perfectly green electricity grid sought by Joe Biden isn't the end of the fight against global warming. Today, 40 percent of America's electricity comes from carbon-free sources. The Democratic presidential candidate has made getting that to 100% by 2035 a centerpiece of his $2 trillion plan to address climate change and create jobs. Getting there would take an enormous expansion of solar and wind capacity in the U.S., backed by mass adoption of energy-storage technologies and hanging onto existing hydroelectric and nuclear plants. Policy experts question the 15-year timetable for eliminating emissions from the electrical system, which would indeed be an immense challenge.