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COP21: Industries under review

  • Written by  Mark Rowe
  • Published in Climate
COP21: Industries under review Arnaud Bouissou / MEDDE / SG COP21
07 Dec
2015
Behind COP21’s dramatic headlines and promises of an end to ‘business-as-usual’, there are substantial changes being asked of global industries in order to strike a deal. Mark Rowe examines the sectors most under pressure to change their practices

STEEL

steelDabarti CGI
Impact
Steel is a CO2 and energy intensive industry. On average, 1.8 tonnes of CO2 are emitted for every tonne of steel produced. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the iron and steel industry accounts for 6.7 per cent of total world CO2 emissions.

Industry Perspective
The World Steel Association (WSA) says ‘steel is infinitely recyclable and its by-products and waste energies are valuable resources’. It has called for the talks to include steel on the basis of the full life-cycle of the product, rather than focusing on production. The industry is likely to be involved in re-worked cap and trade and emission trading systems that emerge from Paris. But a key demand for the EU steel industry is that a global agreement – which it says it is in favour of – must require China and other developing nations to cut emissions at the same time and pace as the EU. The WSA has said that under existing emissions limits, it is ‘technically impossible’ for the European steel sector to survive.

What Needs To Be Done?
The EU, Japan and the US are funding research into new, lower-carbon steel making technologies that may also involve the re-use of CO2. The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) says improved heat and energy recovery from process gases and waste streams, fuel delivery though coal injection, and improved furnace design and process controls have potential. CISL argues that it is technically possible for the Indian steel industry to reduce primary energy use from 2010 to 2030 by 87 per cent compared to 2007.

 

MEAT AND DAIRY

meatValentyn Volkov
Impact
Beef was dubbed a ‘climate harmful meat’ by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) this autumn. Most studies attribute 10 to 35 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions to agriculture. About nine per cent of emissions in the entire agricultural sector comprise CO2, 35 to 45 per cent methane and 45 to 55 per cent nitrous oxide. Greenpeace has highlighted cattle ranchers who clear cut millions of square kilometres of forests for grazing pastures, inhibiting the ability to absorb atmospheric carbon.

Industry Perspective
The UK’s National Farmers Union says that ‘agriculture is in the frontline of climate change’ and that by storing carbon in soils and vegetation and other measures, the sector can reduce emissions by three million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year from 2018 to 2022. The Australian beef industry has reduced emission intensity by 14 per cent since 1981 and in Canadian pig manure is injected into soil to reduce exposure of manure to the air. The North American Meat Institute says US livestock accounts for less than three per cent of total emissions. Intensively reared cattle reach slaughter weight more quickly, it argues, and so produce less methane.

What Needs To Be Done?
How to reduce methane emissions when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the world needs to produce at least 50 per cent more food to feed nine billion people by 2050? Or when the FAO expects global meat consumption to reach 460 million tonnes in 2050, an increase of 65 per cent on 2009? Reduce emissions from land use change and livestock management, says CISL. There is talk of finance and equity release for climate-smart agriculture emerging from the conference, growing more on less space and innovative nitrogen fixation measures to reduce fertiliser use. There may well be a funding deal for agricultural research in developing countries. Australia is working on algae-based foods to reduce methane emissions from cattle.

 

AVIATION AND AIRPORTS

airplaneNieuwland
Impact
Friends of the Earth says the world’s 16,000 commercial aircraft generate more than 600 million tonnes of CO2, 3.5 per cent of global warming from human activity. On current trends this could rise to 15 per cent by 2050. Then there’s radiative forcing: aircraft contrails can lead to the formation of cirrus clouds, both of which warm the Earth’s surface. Airports are mini-cities that muster substantial carbon footprints, including the use of fuel by arriving and departing aircraft.

Industry Perspective
More than 700,000 gallons of biofuel kerosene have been trialled, from camelina and jatropha to algae but the prospect of aircraft routinely flying on non-carbon Jet-A fuel is still decades away. The International Air Transport Association has a target to reduce aviation CO2 emissions by 50 per cent by 2050, relative to 2005 levels. The airline SAS operates a ‘green landings’ policy, where possible landing with an even descent – which consumes four to 17 per cent less fuel than conventional descents. Stockholm’s Arlanda airport has invested heavily in cogeneration, pioneered onsite power production and thereby cut fossil fuel use.

What Needs To Be Done?
Revised cap and trade and emissions trading systems may have a significant impact, though the industry has lobbied furiously against this. Environmental groups say that regional impositions of fuel taxes and emissions levies are necessary; the EU has said aviation should source 40 per cent of fuel from low carbon fuels by 2050. Airports and air navigation services have a role: air traffic management technologies and flight management systems have potential to shorten flight times, increase flight efficiency through precision navigation and landing, and minimize delays such as stacking that guzzle fuel.

 

OIL, GAS AND MINING

miningIURII
Impact
In 2010, 35 per cent of direct GHG emissions came from energy production, making it the largest contributor to global GHG emissions. CISL says the long-term trend of decarbonisation of energy has recently reversed. From 2000 to 2010, the growth in energy sector emissions outpaced the growth in overall emissions by around one per cent per year, mainly due to coal’s increasing share of energy. In 2010, the sector’s emissions were put at 30 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 but this, including the energy supply sector, is projected to rise to 55 to 70 GtCO2 per year by 2050.

Industry Perspective
In October, ten big oil and gas companies (none from the US) declared support for the ‘general ambition’ to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. They also called for governments to give ‘clear, stable, long-term, ambitious policy frameworks’. Some are shifting from oil to less polluting gas; others are investing in solar. Oil firms have called for a carbon tax on GHG emitters, something that would hit coal more than oil and gas.

What Needs To Be Done?
The IEA says that fossil fuels must fall by 60 per cent of the energy mix by 2040; CISL says their use without carbon capture needs to ‘virtually disappear by 2100’. Friends of the Earth says that more than two thirds of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground to prevent dangerous climate change. In the absence of meaningful industry action, FOE advocates reform of international carbon trading schemes. CISL says the energy intensity of mining could be cut by 25 per cent through wide-scale upgrading, replacement and deployment of best available technologies.

 

TEXTILES

textilesseyephoto
Impact
Owing to its huge size and scope, the textile industry is one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters. Annual global textile production is estimated at 60 billion kg of fabric: to produce that quantity, 1,074 billion kWh of electricity, 132 million metric tons of coal and up to nine trillion litres of water is required. Textiles, including clothing, accounts for about one ton of the 19.8 tons of total CO2 emissions produced by each person in the US.

Industry Perspective 
A key driver is the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which represents one third of global apparel and footwear production. The coalition oversees the Higg Index, a database that measures social and environmental responses for materials, facilities and processes. The coalition emphasises shared information and best practice: Nike disseminated the findings of its $7million Environmental Apparel Design Tool, which employs a numeric scoring system to its environmental impacts. The UK fashion retail market has launched the Carbon Reduction Label developed by the Carbon Trust, the world’s first carbon footprint label for clothing.

What Needs To Be Done?
There are likely to be implications in Paris for the textile industry in the form of compliance with energy reduction measures, from reviews of fossil fuel subsidies and energy taxes. There may also be pressure to reduce the use of fertilisers in the production of natural fibres. Friends of the Earth says that ‘voluntary action by companies can only achieve so much’ and that the industry must become more efficient, along with regulation to discourage people to resist buying new clothes every season.

 

HEALTH AND MEDICINES

medicinekhemporn tongphay
Impact
An unexpectedly significant emitter: the American healthcare sector accounts for nearly a tenth of the country’s carbon emissions; the NHS in England generates 18 million tonnes of CO2 a year, 25 per cent of all public sector CO2 emissions. Brazilian hospitals account for more than ten per cent of the country’s total commercial energy consumption. A University of Chicago study found hospitals were by far the largest contributor of CO2 emissions in the healthcare sector, followed by the pharmaceutical industry.

Industry Perspective
In the UK, the National Health Service Sustainable Development Unit is working to reduce the carbon footprint of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Several companies collaborate with the unit and have published international guidance for calculating the carbon footprint of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Other initiatives may encourage the recovery and recycling of equipment, such as respiratory inhalers. GlaxoSmithKline says that if every patient in the UK returned their inhalers for one year, 512,330 tonnes of CO2 would be saved.

What Needs To Be Done?
Environmentalists says hospitals in particular are well placed to employ onsite renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar, super-efficient building design, minimised waste generation and water recycling. For example, by utilising purchasing power to obtain environmentally responsible and ethically produced products. There may additional pressures to adopt this approach should public procurement criteria emerge with environmental and social requirements to be used when purchasing pharmaceutical products. Reviews of fossil fuel subsidies and energy taxes in Paris will have clear implications.

 

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

carsAlexander Chaikin
Impact
In the UK alone, road transport accounts for 22 per cent of total CO2 emissions; in the US that figure is 30 per cent. Light vehicle ownership stands at one billion globally and is projected to double in the next few decades, says the CISL. The Volkswagen emissions scandal last autumn has undermined much confidence in the industry’s attitude to climate change, and served as a reminder of its impact.

Industry Perspective
The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) says the industry has invested in fuel-efficiency technologies but says it would support a policy framework that would allow the industry to cut road transport emissions while protecting jobs and growth. ACEA says that by 2021, new cars will produce 42 per cent less CO2 per kilometre than new cars bought in 2005. The auto industry emphasises just how many jobs depend on it – worldwide the figure is around 50 million.

What Needs To Be Done?
The automotive sector faces further regulatory drives to cut emissions and the carbon content of fuels and pressure to reduce vehicle life-cycle footprints, including the energy used in the construction of their raw materials. Reviews of fossil fuel subsidies and energy taxes will have clear implications. The EU has set a target for CO2 emissions per kilometre of 95g by 2020 (down from 120g/km of CO2 in 2012), with the intention of stricter targets to follow. CISL adds that behavioural change and infrastructure investments such as lightweight materials are often as important as more efficient vehicle technologies and lower carbon fuels.

 

PALM OIL

palm oilKYTan
Impact
Palm oil is used for biofuel, cosmetics, snack foods, ice cream, lotion and soap, and appears in about half of all products on store shelves. Demand for palm oil is expected to double by 2050 to 240 million tonnes per year. WWF says that forest conversion to palm oil by plantation companies is closely linked to deforestation and the burning of carbon-rich peatlands: Indonesia’s peatlands represent just 0.1 per cent of the Earth’s land mass, but contribute four per cent of global emissions. Many of this autumn’s fires in Sumatra were linked to the industry.

Industry Perspective
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was set up in 2003 as a non-profit association of producers, processors and traders, consumer goods manufacturers and NGOs to develop a global standard for sustainable palm oil. Unilever says by 2020 all its palm oil will come from traceable and certified sources and it has invested $130million in a processing plant in Indonesia to that effect. Singapore-based agribusiness, Wilmar International, the largest palm oil trader in the world, recently committed not to engage in deforestation with a No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation policy.

What Needs To Be Done?
Climate finance emerging from Paris, perhaps through REDD and REDD+, which reward developing nations for not cutting rainforest, may encourage palm oil companies to engage in sustainable practices. NGOs are also calling for a moratorium on clearing forest and peatlands and argue that measures need to address smallholders – 40 per cent of the world’s palm oil derives from plantations of fewer than 50 hectares – and have generally remained outside agreements with multinationals.

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