COP24: We have solutions, now we need to stand united on climate action

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This month, all eyes are on the Polish city of Katowice, where the global climate community is meeting for COP24. Katowice is an important step to make the Paris Agreement a success by defining a robust transparency and accountability system to track progress towards the long-term goal, writes Bernard Respaut.

Bernard Respaut is the chief executive of the European Copper Institute.

The summit comes on the heels of a long-anticipated report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which concluded that to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C, we need rapid and far-reaching transitions in buildings and cities, energy, industry, land and transport. Global carbon emissions would have to fall by as much as 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.

We therefore need to decarbonise together, now. The European Parliament has called on world leaders to strengthen their post-2020 climate commitments and mobilise adequate climate financing for developing countries.

Beyond strengthening commitments, though, we must implement them, and COP24 will be crucial in providing a ‘real time’ overview of how far committed partners have come with actioning their goals. Europe should continue to lead the charge, but it is imperative the rest of the world follows.

 Copper: the metal of the energy transition

 The good news is we have solutions, and copper is central to many. It is the metal of the energy transition, facilitating production of renewable energy, improving energy efficiency in products and systems, and supporting the electrification of transport, heating and cooling.

Based on the EU’s 2050 scenario, we estimate the energy transition may increase demand for copper by up to 6-times (approx. 25 million tonnes in 2050). This makes recycling pivotal and, fortunately, a well-established recycling chain already exists, enabling the endless reuse of copper.

The copper industry is energy intensive. Energy makes up 20–30 percent of production costs, meaning it is vulnerable to increasing energy and climate costs.

To preserve the production of copper and other raw materials in Europe, and unleash their many benefits—supporting climate solutions in addition to the jobs and growth associated with a sector in growing demand—we need a legislative framework that supports their continued contribution.

Key to that is a level playing field with other developed or transitioning nations, such as the USA or China, when it comes to energy and climate costs.

Energy efficiency: widening the scope

As economic growth and urbanisation demand ever more energy, using it efficiently is pivotal. A recent report by the International Energy Agency shows that without energy efficiency policies, we would have consumed 12% more energy and produced 12% more greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.

It also found there is substantial potential to save more. To achieve our full energy saving potential, however, global annual energy efficiency investments must double by 2025 and double again by 2040.

Recently, the implementation of energy efficiency measures has slowed, and European policies are not delivering the greatest possible energy savings. Yet significant opportunities remain, including in the EU energy system.

The scope of EU energy efficiency policy should be widened to include measures in all energy-using sectors, and implement some more complex measures offering significant energy savings, such as building automation and electrification of heat and transport.

These savings can be realised at costs well below the price of energy supply, and thus make great financial sense. They are also important in an increasingly renewable energy system.

 Connecting solutions through copper

Products containing copper tend to operate more efficiently, with typical cost-effective reductions in energy use in the range of 20–30% t. Copper is thus a connector to energy efficiency solutions, and it also connects on a policy level.

In 2017, the European Copper Institute launched DecarbEurope: an initiative bringing together partners from across sectors and markets to facilitate a truly low-carbon economy by presenting an integrated vision for how to achieve a deep, cost-effective, circular-oriented and consumer-centric energy transition.

As DecarbEurope, we believe decarbonisation will only happen through a symbiosis of policy and business, so we bring tangible solutions to the table showing how that transition could look. One example is sector coupling: the development of multiple integration vectors such as electricity, bioenergy, cogeneration, hydrogen and district heating, to name a few.

 European leadership

The US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement represents an opportunity for Europe to lead by example on global climate action. The new EU strategy for long-term greenhouse gas emissions reductions can provide a robust framework that—if effectively implemented—could make a significant contribution to the Paris goals.

With this year’s COP24 summit being held in a major European mining and industrial region, it is more relevant than ever to discuss the key role of raw materials in mitigating climate change. For Europe to successfully lead global action on climate change, we need more dialogue, collaboration and joined up efforts across sectors.

We need not one but many solutions, that together allow us to meet our Paris Agreement commitments and stay competitive in the long term. The copper industry has some of the solutions, and we are committed to finding and implementing more.

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