‘What needs to happen now is for reactors to be rolled at scale and at pace’

The Cop28 deal agreed at the UN climate summit in Dubai has recognised the need to “accelerate” nuclear energy as a key approach for a deep, rapid and sustained reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – a move hailed by industry representatives and European politicians as a major moment for the future of the sector.

The United Nations said that in a demonstration of global solidarity, negotiators from nearly 200 parties came together in Dubai with a decision to ratchet up climate action before the end of the decade – with the overarching aim to keep the global temperature limit of 1.5°C within reach.

The final text of a document known as The UAE Consensus, agreed on Wednesday (13 December) in Dubai, recognises the need to accelerate zero- and low-emission technologies, including renewables and nuclear. It calls for abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilisation and storage, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production, which can be done with nuclear reactors.

The final text follows a declaration endorsed by 24 nations earlier at the UN’s leading climate summit to triple nuclear power capacity by 2050, marking the first time that governments have joined together at Cop to endorse nuclear power.

The United Nations said: “With an unprecedented reference to transitioning away from all fossil fuels, The UAE Consensus is delivering a paradigm shift that has the potential to redefine our economies.”

Welcoming nuclear’s inclusion in the final deal, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK-based Nuclear Industry Association, said: “This is a major moment for the future of nuclear energy and its role in fighting climate change.

“The science has long called for all clean energy sources to be utilised in this global effort to drive down emissions and this deal shows that common sense has finally prevailed.

“What needs to happen now is for nuclear power to be rolled at scale and at pace to hit net-zero, including in the UK, where we are playing a vital role alongside our allies.”

Nuclear Technology ‘No Longer Taboo’

International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Rafael Grossi acknowledged on social media that the consensus “rightly places nuclear energy as part of the solution for deep decarbonisation”.

He said: “The IAEA and I welcome this outcome. Onwards to scaling up this clean and reliable technology!”

The agency said nuclear technology is no longer taboo at Cop and this year’s conference was “a watershed moment” for “the only energy source along with hydropower that has demonstrated the ability to decarbonise electricity supply on a national scale”.

Peter Liese, chair of the European Parliament’s delegation to Cop28, said the outcome is “really historic”.

Liese, a member of the Christian Democratic Union, part of the European People’s Party, said: Cop28 decided on the transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewables and energy efficiency. Nuclear energy also has its place. The adopted text does not mention the word ‘phaseout’, but it is a ‘phaseout’ of fossil fuels.

“I expect the stocks of renewables, energy efficiency and nuclear energy to go up. Great work by the EU team around commissioner [Wopke] Hoekstra.”

The text agreed at Cop28 has for the first time explicitly called on nations to transition away from fossil fuels to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

But the text, released by Cop president Sultan Al Jaber early on Wednesday, did not include an explicit commitment to phase out or phase down fossil fuels, as many countries, civil society groups and scientists have urged.

Scientists Cast Doubt On Text

Instead, it called on countries to contribute to global efforts to transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems “in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”.

Al Jaber described the consensus as a “true victory” of unity, solidarity and collaboration. He thanked the people who had made it happen and said: “This is a true victory for those who are sincere and genuine in helping address this global climate challenge. This is a true victory for those who are pragmatic, results-oriented and led by the science.”

His comments are at odds with reactions from some scientists who have praised parts of the UAE consensus but criticised its vague language on fossil fuels, which are the main cause of climate change.

Prof Johan Rockström of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, said: “No, the Cop28 agreement will not enable the world to hold the 1.5°C limit, but yes, the result is a pivotal landmark.

“This agreement delivers on making it clear to all financial institutions, businesses and societies that we are now finally – eight years behind the Paris schedule – at the true ‘beginning of the end’ of the fossil-fuel driven world economy.

“Yet the fossil-fuel statement remains too vague, with no hard and accountable boundaries for 2030, 2040 and 2050.”

Date: Thursday, 14 December 2023
Original article: nucnet.org/news/landmark-consensus-recognises-need-to-accelerate-nuclear-energy-12-3-2023