Energy and Climate: Together We Can Build a Sustainable and Low-carbon Future

December 1, 2015 by Westinghouse Electric Company

Our planet faces an immense climate challenge. Study after study from global experts demonstrate a stark reality. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I has concluded that human activity and greenhouse gas emissions are – with 95 percent certainty – the dominant cause of present climate change activity.

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report further states that by 2050, 80 percent of electricity will need to be low-carbon. Yet today’s energy portfolio does not reflect that requirement: technology that burns fossil fuels accounts for 70 percent, while low-carbon energy accounts for only 30 percent, with approximately one-half of that originating from hydro and one-third from nuclear.

Electricity production is the primary source of CO2 emissions, and therefore nuclear energy – together with wind, solar and hydro – is essential to mitigating those numbers. The international community requires clear and decisive action from the COP21 meetings scheduled in Paris November 30 to December 11. Moreover, the energy sector seeks a comprehensive roadmap for all low-carbon energy sources with more investment and non-discriminatory access to finance and funding mechanisms, along with a stable and supportive regulatory framework.

Any discussions on clean and secure energy cannot overlook the importance of these factors. A comprehensive and lasting international climate agreement would enable nuclear and renewables to jointly advance our common goal of achieving low-carbon emissions worldwide.

Strong scientific data demonstrate that low-carbon is the most cost-effective source of energy. In its most recent report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) conveys the fact that nuclear and onshore wind produce electricity at the lowest prices. Low-carbon energy is not only good for the climate but also for consumers and industry.

Additionally, the IEA estimated earlier this year that a low-carbon, green future requires a stronger focus on nuclear and renewable energy sources, making a shift from gas and fossil fuel-nurturing policies in its World Energy Outlook Special Report: Energy and Climate Change. According to that study, gas has indeed helped curb CO2 emissions when acting as a substitute for fossil fuels, but adds to emissions when acting as a substitute for nuclear and renewables.

The Paris Conference must deliver a robust international agreement which advances the realization of significant greenhouse gas emission reductions by mobilizing and deploying all low-carbon energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and nuclear, to ensure that the world’s rising energy consumption and production becomes incrementally less carbon intensive.

The absence of that important multilateral framework will result in failure to meet the global climate challenge.