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November 27, 2023

Time is running out for 1.5°C - let’s do the hard part

We’re halfway between the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement and the key target year 2030. It’s clear from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and United Nations’ (UN) new reports that the energy transition is moving far too slowly, despite the technology being ready to lower GHG emissions here and now. The current climate pledges simply aren’t enough. Topsoe will be at COP28 pushing for ambitious commitments to speed up the energy transition in the fight against climate change. It’s time to do the hard part.

Keeping the hope alive of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, a global commitment adopted by 196 parties at COP21 in Paris eight years ago, is what COP28 will center around in Dubai this December. Discussions are already running on the phase-out of fossil fuels - and with good reason, as there is no time to waste in the race towards net zero.

More action needed
Both  the IEA  and the UN have recently published reports stressing the fact that even if the current climate policy pledges are delivered on in full, we’re still not on the pathway to 1.5°C. Although global investment in energy transition technologies reached a new record of USD 1.3 trillion in 2022, annual investments must more than quadruple to over USD 5 trillion to be on track for 1.5°C, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

“The good news is that the solutions to lower greenhouse gas emissions are already here. What we need now is stronger policy backing and frameworks, so we can scale the solutions that are necessary to realize a net zero future as fast as possible. We urge world leaders to ensure certainty through legislation and international standards, as well as to provide supporting financing schemes for the production of fuels for net zero,” says Roeland Baan, CEO of Topsoe, who is leading Topsoe’s COP28 delegation.

Leveraging Global Stocktake
COP28 will present the first Global Stocktake, monitoring collective progress, and lack thereof, for countries and stakeholders toward meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. This can be leveraged to accelerate governments’ ambitions in their next round of climate action plans due in 2025.

“We encourage all nations to adopt ambitious and detailed national 2030 and 2040 emission reduction targets in updated Nationally Determined Contributions and new energy transition plans to close the current emissions gaps. Without strong, unwavering commitments from governments, private stakeholders may hesitate and the window to reach the 1.5°C target will close,” says Amy Chiang, Chief Sustainability and External Affairs Officer at Topsoe.

Not so hard to abate
Energy-intensive industries and long-distance transportation, often referred to as the hard-to-abate sectors because they can’t be electrified directly, account for approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the World Economic Forum. 

At Topsoe, we want to change the conversation and start focusing on doing the hard work. Because hard doesn’t mean impossible. Proven technologies, building on decades of science-based innovation, are already here to deliver fuels for a more sustainable future.

Solutions ready to scale

To lower emissions in energy-intensive industries and long-distance transportation we need technologies such as electrolysis in Power-to-X processes technology that can transform renewable electricity and water into green hydrogen. The resulting hydrogen can then be converted into fuels such as green ammonia and eMethanol for  shipping and aviation, for example, or to store and use as an energy source that would be available when there’s a deficit in renewable electricity.

According to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook Report 2023, hydrogen production needs to reach over 400 million tons in 2050 to enable a net zero scenario. In 2022, only 90,000 tons were produced. Equally, installed electrolysis capacity, meaning Power-to-X plants that are up and running, was at 700 MW last year; capacity needs to be ramped up to 200 GW in only eight years to be on track for net zero in 2030. So, there’s a massive gap between the electrolysis capacity and hydrogen production we have currently and what is needed.

“Topsoe is one of a few companies that has the full Power-to-X value proposition. We deliver end-to-end Power-to-X offerings, that bring adaptable, tested and proven solutions to the market,” says Sundus Cordelia Ramli, CCO of Power-to-X at Topsoe, and continues:

“We’re in the process of building an industrial-scale Solid Oxide Electrolysis Cell (SOEC) factory in Denmark, and we’re already looking at placing another large-scale facility in the US. This next-generation, highly energy efficient technology will enable a faster energy transition. But manufacturing capacity must be ramped up significantly - and fast - to reach the necessary scale and get on track for net zero. Topsoe’s ammonia and methanol technologies need no introduction, so at COP28, our goal is to bring awareness to the fact that the solutions needed are available and ready to be deployed to solve the challenges ahead of us.”

Sustainable aviation fuel
Aviation accounts for 2-3% of global GHG emissions and is one of the sectors that are difficult to electrify. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) presents the most promising pathway for decarbonizing air travel, and it’s ready to see its current share of 0.1% of jet fuel usage soar in the coming years.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that the demand for SAF will be 449 billion liters annually in 2050. Last year, only around 300 million liters were produced.

SAF can help reduce CO2 emissions by up to 85% compared to conventional jet fuel, and eJet fuels can reduce 100% of CO2 emissions. Topsoe has a range of proven technologies ready to help our customers produce SAF with several already commercially advanced production routes, including the production of renewable fuels from waste oils and fats, and eFuels from green hydrogen, CO2 and renewable electricity.

“Fully compatible with existing aircraft and fueling infrastructure, SAF can be implemented within existing structures. It is therefore an environmentally and logistically favorable alternative fuel source for the aviation sector,” says Elena Scaltritti, CCO of Topsoe.

However, barriers persist, including the need for long-term commitments from the airline industry, a more risk-taking approach from the financing sector and a more competitive SAF cost.

“Our goal at COP28 is to engage in meaningful discussions surrounding these challenges. We aim to advocate for a collaborative approach, emphasizing the role of governments in facilitating offtake agreements, encouraging finance to adopt a more risk-tolerant stance, and ensuring the equitable distribution of the higher cost of SAF across the value chain. Topsoe has key solutions for SAF, low-carbon ammonia and e-methanol and we’re eager to collaborate to help chart the course for efficient decarbonization of energy-intensive industries,” says Scaltritti.

All solutions must be employed
Net zero won’t be enabled through any one single idea or solution. We need to be pragmatic and develop all available technological pathways to accelerate decarbonization. 

Massive deployment of renewable fuels, low-carbon fuels and eFuels can fast track decarbonization and make a significant impact in energy-intensive sectors. It will also strengthen energy security, create jobs as well as cleaner and more affordable energy systems.

Pushing for strong commitments
The COP28 Presidency has put forth ambitious commitments that Topsoe fully supports: tripling renewable energy capacity to 11,000GW, doubling hydrogen production to 180mn tons per year by 2030, increasing energy efficiency by 2030, and ensuring the establishment and commitment to fund the Loss and Damage Fund.

We’re also part of the Global Renewables Alliance campaign calling for global commitment at COP28 to triple renewable capacity to 11,000 GW by 2030. Because we depend on green electrons to produce alternative fuels.

Meet us at COP28
In Dubai, we want to drive the conversation around the energy transition, pushing for action by industry and policy makers. We’re hosting three panels on clean tech, sustainable aviation fuel and carbon to food, in addition to the many debates our team members will participate in.

We want to provide inspiration, share insights and strengthen partnerships with nations, industry and civil society to unlock the full potential of our decarbonization solutions.

See where you can find us here.

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