Sustainability Matters Dec 2021/Jan 2022

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There is no doubt that there will be challenges in achieving net zero GHG emissions, but a significant proportion of the task is possible with technologies available today.


he COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow has loomed large in the news of late. Leaving Australian climate politics aside, on a global scale there have been some initiatives, summarised in a final statement from the conference: “We have seen a huge shift in coal, with many more countries committing to phase out unabated coal power and ending international coal financing.…While on the world’s roads, the transition to zero emissions vehicles is gathering pace, with some of the largest car manufacturers working together to make all new car sales zero emission by 2040 and by 2035 in leading markets. Countries and cities are following suit with ambitious petrol and diesel car phase-out dates.”1 According to Oxford University’s (Figure 1), energy consump-


tion accounted for 73.2% of GHG emissions in 2016, some significant elements being: • Energy use in industry 24.2% (iron and steel 7.2%, other industries total: 17.2%) • Energy use in transport 16.2% (road transport 11.9%) • Energy use in buildings 17.5% (residential: 10.9%) • The chemical and cement industries also accounted for a further 5.2 % through nonenergy GHG emissions, while agriculture, forestry and land use accounted for 18.4% (livestock: 5.8%). It is clear from these figures that the largest overall impact on GHG emissions will come from eliminating or reducing energy-related emissions in industry, transport and buildings. At present there are really only two technologies that allow for energy consumption

with zero carbon emissions: electricity from renewable sources and green hydrogen (which also depends on renewable electricity). As a result, there is a growing ‘electrification of everything’ movement.

Changes to the world’s energy mix According to McKinsey and Company, renewables could produce more than half of the world’s electricity by 2035, at lower prices than fossil-fuel generation.2 The resulting lowering of electricity prices, along with the falling cost of electric equipment and more stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) emission regulation, is expected to boost consumption of electricity in sectors, such as passenger vehicles and space heating, where fossil fuels have long been the standard energy source.


Glenn Johnson, Editor, Process Technology