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Climate targets have failed, a new approach is needed

Oilfield Technology,

According to Jeffrey Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia University and Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on the Millennium Development Goals, if the world is to successfully tackle the problem of climate change then it will need a new approach.

Currently, the major powers view climate change as a negotiation over who will reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. Each agrees to small ‘contributions’ of emission reduction, trying to nudge other countries to do more. The US, for example, will ‘concede’ a little bit of CO2 reduction if China will do the same.

Sachs explains that we have been ‘trapped’ in this incremental mindset for two decades. This is wrong in two key ways:

  • It is not working: CO2 emissions are rising, not falling.
  • 'Decarbonising’ the energy system is technologically complicated. America’s real problem if not competition from China, it is the complexity of shifting a US$ 17.5 trillion economy from fossil fuels to low carbon alternatives. Similarly, China’s problem is not the US, but how to wean its economy off its entrenched dependence on coal.

According to Sachs, achieving decarbonisation while maintaining a strong economy will be difficult but not impossible. Climate negotiators should be focusing on how to cooperate to ensure that technology breakthroughs are achieved and benefit all countries.

Fighting climate change does depend on all countries having the confidence that their competitors will follow suit. Industry will play a key role in making this possible, with companies tailoring their products for a decarbonised society. Sachs emphasises that the likes of Musk, Lackner, General Electric, Siemens, Ericsson, Intel, Huawei, Google, Baidu, Samsung and Apple are needed to forge the technological breakthroughs that will reduce CO2 emissions.

Oil and coal majors such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Koch must work to advance carbon capture sequestration technologies (CCS) in order to render their products safe for future use.

Adapted from a blog post by Emma McAleavey.

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