This month, the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) took place in Marrakech, Morocco. Here, Prof Melissa Denecke reflects on the letter that Women in Nuclear Global wrote on the occasion of COP21 last year and argues that investing in Nuclear Energy is vital to tackling climate change.
- Decision-makers across the world must create policy frameworks that allow nuclear power to play its part in tackling climate change
- Now the world has decided to work together to limit global warming, specifics of actually doing this have to be ironed out
- We should provide loan guarantees that will allow developing countries to finance substantial infrastructural investments in their clean energy production and distribution systems
This month, the 22nd meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 22) was held in Marrakech. The so-called Paris Agreement resulted from their last meeting, COP21, and defines an internationally common cause to undertake both significant efforts to combat climate change and efforts to adapt to its effects. Specifically, it sets an international goal to keep global temperature increases in this century well below 2 ºC, but also to drive substantial efforts to limit temperature increases to below 1.5 ºC and to assist developing countries in achieving these goals. This is an agreement of phenomenal importance, as it potentially averts the demise of the world as we know it today.
The role of nuclear power in reducing carbon emissions is imperative, as a mature technology and a proven and effective low-carbon energy source. The total amount of electricity generated by nuclear power stations around the world already saves the equivalent of over two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Nuclear power is essential for meeting any realistic carbon emission reduction targets, and decision-makers around the world must create policy frameworks that allow nuclear power to play its part in averting the catastrophic change in climate that we now face.
It is this enormous importance that led the Women in Nuclear (WiN) Global to submit an endorsement of the Paris Agreement to the COP21 through a written declaration, and attached signatures from WiN Global member from across the globe. WiN Global is a network of women working professionally in various fields of nuclear energy and radiation applications, committed to the further development and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. In their declaration, WiN Global asserted that women play a crucial role in preserving our Earth for future generations and formulated at their annual conference in Vienna last year, that “nuclear energy is a key part of the solution in the fight against climate change”. WiN Global made the further demand that each country must have access to all low-carbon technologies available, including nuclear energy, and that development of these technologies should find support by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The meeting at COP22 is key in that, now the world has decided to work together to limit global warming, specifics of actually doing this have to be ironed out. This will require not only technical negotiations and logistics for implementation, but also a large amount of diplomacy and the creation of necessary national and international policy frameworks. Issues of carbon accounting, tracking countries’ voluntary emission reductions, and deciding each country’s contribution to finance the agreement are all on the agenda. A consideration to be taken seriously is providing loan guarantees that will allow developing countries to finance substantial infrastructural investments in their clean energy production and distribution systems.
It is widely acknowledged that the largest obstacle to low-carbon nuclear power is cost, but there is also a major obstacle that is neither technological nor safety related, but rather political and social. It requires policy-makers everywhere to take a lead in creating an environment in which nuclear power can play its vital part. It is paramount that our world leaders recognise the importance of nuclear energy in greenhouse-gas emission reduction to limit global warming, translate this into policies for implementation of nuclear energy generation and communicate this to the wider population.
We need to raise public awareness of nuclear power as a safe and proven alternative to high carbon emission coal and gas energy sources, in addition to the policies ensuring access to safe and secure low-carbon nuclear technology for developing countries and financial policies to make investment in energy infrastructure more affordable. These are all essential to give the world the best chance it may have of escaping the terrifying reality of runaway climate change.