Recent news offers a glimpse of what the world might look like beyond fossil fuels.
Oil superpower Saudi Arabia has announced a new strategy for its economy that aims at diversifying away from hydrocarbons, France is planning to set a price floor for carbon emissions, and emissions-free aviation is looking closer to reality.
Transport on the ground is also going emissions-free in various parts of Europe.
These various initiatives are contributing to countries' fulfillment of their commitments under the Paris Agreement, as well as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 7 (ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and 13 (take urgent action to combat climate change and its effects).
28 April 2016: Recent news offers a glimpse of what the world might look like beyond fossil fuels. Saudi Arabia has announced a new strategy for its economy that aims at diversifying away from hydrocarbons, France is planning to set a price floor for carbon emissions, and emissions-free aviation is looking closer to reality. Transport on the ground is also going emissions-free in various parts of Europe.
These various initiatives are contributing to countries’ fulfillment of their commitments under the Paris Agreement, as well as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 7 (ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and 13 (take urgent action to combat climate change and its effects).
Saudi Arabia’s Vision for a Future without Oil
In its Vision 2030, which was endorsed by the Saudi cabinet on 25 April, the Government has indicated that it will reduce dependence on oil revenue – a move that is also expected to decrease the country’s contribution to climate change. Among the package of reforms are plans to cut consumer fuel subsidies, sell approximately 5% of Saudi Aramco shares, create a US$2 trillion sovereign wealth fund and increase non-oil revenues. Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince, has been driving the reforms, characterizing oil as a “serious” addiction and adding, “I think in 2020 we can live without oil.” [Full Text of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030] [Full Transcript of Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Al Arabiya Interview]
France’s Carbon Price Floor
The Government of France has been floating the idea of a European-wide “price corridor” for the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). While it remains unclear whether the continent will take up the idea, the host of the Paris Climate Change Conference has decided to set an example by instituting a price floor for carbon emissions generated by its own electricity producers. The policy, announced by French President François Hollande on 25 April, will decrease the profitability of the country’s five remaining coal plants, which have lately been twice as profitable as gas plants in the face of low carbon and coal prices. The new policy is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 12 million tonnes by decreasing coal plants’ operating time to 200 hours per year. [Climate Action Press Release] [French Government Press Release (in French)]
A 100% Sun-Powered Pacific Flight
After a three-day flight across the Pacific Ocean, the Solar Impulse, an airplane outfitted with solar panels, landed in San Francisco, US, on 24 April. The aircraft, piloted alternately by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, is making an around-the-world journey that started in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE). With 17,000 photovoltaic (PV) cells, Solar Impulse can run its propellers and charge its batteries – with the latter allowing for night travel – without emitting a single ounce of carbon into the atmosphere.
Although the plane can only accommodate the pilot and experienced a hiccup when its batteries overheated last year, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres pointed out that “Solar Impulse is breaking through self-imposed barriers of possibility.” She added that the two pilots have proven it possible to “traverse long distances with zero emissions in a flying vehicle.” [UNFCCC Press Release] [UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Press Release]
Land-Based Zero-Emissions Transport Gets a Boost in Europe
As the proliferation of renewable forms of electricity cleans up the power sector, the opportunity to institute truly emissions-free forms of transportation also opens up. However, this transition will also require a switch to electric vehicles (EVs), which currently have a very small market share in most places in the world. Thanks in part to various government initiatives though, EVs are starting to make inroads.
The city of Bonn, Germany, home to the UNFCCC Secretariat, hopes to one day have a bus fleet entirely powered by electricity. On 28 April, the city inaugurated six electric buses as part of the EU’s Zero Emission Urban Bus System (ZeEUS) project. The project is currently testing electric bus technology at ten sites. [UNFCCC Press Release] [ZeEUS Website]
At the national level, the Government of Germany presented on 27 April a programme to incentivize the purchase of EVs, announcing €1.2 billion for €4,000 rebates for EV buyers and €3,000 for hybrid purchases. The industry is taking on 50% of the cost of the initiative, which also includes funding for developing EV charging stations. [Bloomberg Press Release]
In the Netherlands, on 29 March, the lower house of the parliament passed a ban on sales of all non-electric cars by 2025. The legislation, proposed by the country’s labor party, PvdA, would prevent new gasoline and diesel vehicle sales starting in 2025 and also invest in autonomous driving technology. The measure has not yet been approved by the upper house. [International Council on Clean Transportation Blog]
This Mitigation Update is the first in a series by IISD RS intended to highlight many of the key actions that State, non-governmental, intergovernmental and subnational actors are taking to reduce GHG emissions, especially within the context of the mitigation commitments outlined in the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, as well as in the implementation of the SDGs.