Professor David Campbell has a fairly virulent article at the GWPF criticising a BBC radio interview with Lord Adair Turner, head of the Energy Transitions Commission and ex-head of the UK Climate Change Committee.
Professor Campbell’s article ends:
Everything Lord Turner said about the Paris Agreement and China’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions was wrong. That a person of his influence says things that will mislead the listening public is regrettable. That the BBC airs such statements without any challenges is a disgrace.
The article was discussed at Paul Homewood’s blog and there were some interesting comments, with diogenese2 and Robin Guenier among others wondering whether those like Lord Turner who praise the Paris Agreement are knaves or fools. Do they really believe the stuff they spout, or are they lying, confident that no-one will dare contradict them?
To help resolve this important question, I’ve transcribed the interview with Lord Turner below.
Journalist: There was a remarkable moment last week when the leaders of 195 countries started the process of signing the global climate agreement reached in Paris at the end of last year. It commits them to keeping any temperature rise to below 2°C. But how do they do that, let alone go further, which many argue is needed? Lord Turner, who chairs the Energy Transitions Commission says drastic action is now needed. He joins us here in the studio. Good morning.
Adair Turner: Good morning.
J: And countries do have a plan – these so-called INDCs the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – to get there.
AT: Yes. Each of the countries which are the signatories of this have set out an intended nationally determined contribution, and those are a major step forward, getting all those countries rich and poor to make those commitments. But if you add them up – and many people have pointed this out already – if you add them up, they would still leave us on a path which would take us to a warming of something like 2.7 to 3.4°C, not well below 2°C. And we’ve got to make a big difference quickly. Even by 2030 we’ve got to be on a path with carbon emissions something like 30% below those which are in the combination of the INDCs, and the challenge is to work out how do we actually do that, while also enabling emerging and poorer countries to still economically grow.
J: And your answer?
AT: Well the answer is, it’s going to require a combination of strategies. It is undoubtedly going to require the application of renewable and nuclear technologies to drive the decarbonisation of the electricity, and that is the area which is going incredibly fast at the moment and about which we can be optimistic. The crucial thing to realise however is that electricity consumption accounts for only about 20% of global energy consumption, so we’ve got to have a plan for everything which isn’t electricity, either applying electricity to the rest of the energy system, or by driving down de- … carbon in other areas of energy. The other thing that we’ve got to do, and it sometimes gets missed out in this, is we’ve got to achieve an increase in what’s called energy productivity, use less amounts of energy per unit of GDP produced. And those two dimensions – decarbonising the energy supply, and achieving a rapid growth of energy productivity, are what we’ve got to achieve.
J: But we are so far away from that decarbonising the energy supply, ,and yet you look at the remarkable – I mean last week there was this great little big fanfare about the scale of what had been achieved in Paris, but is it…? Are you suggesting…?
AT: Well no, I, I … Look. This is a glass half empty and half full, but I think it’s half full, and we can build on that. The fact is that if you look at the INDCs, there is remarkable progress intended there, for instance in renewable electricity. We are seeing there solar energy now being provided with contracts, free market contracts across the world at as low as six US cents per Kilowatt hour. Now that is fully competitive with gas or coal supply. So we are going to see, and it’s in the INDCs for India or China – you see very very big commitments to renewable electricity. But we’ve got to expand the range at which we are applying low carbon energy to other areas as well, and that’s the challenge we’ve really got to work out.
J: Ok, but you make the point that even if they do what they’ve said they’ll do, we’re still some way short.
AT: We’re still some way short of it, yes. The figure is basically that if you add up all the INDCs, run’em out to 2030, we’ve got to get about 30% below where the aggregate of the INDCs are …
J: And that’s just to meet 2% [sic] and many people say actually you need to go far further to make a difference.
AT: Yes that is right. Well, I think the crucial… I think Paris had it right in terms of objectives.
AT: I think the “well below 2 degrees” should be clearly achievable. I think it is technologically achievable provided there is the will and the investment and the correct policies and all of the different players working together. I think 1.5 bluntly is an aspiration. It will be damned difficult to achieve.
AT: Even two degrees requires that by the end of the century we have a zero carbon economy, no carbon at all.
J: Well there is another element, which often gets missed when people are talking about this, which is the sort of remedy, for example the carbon capture and storage, which Norway and a couple of others are looking at, and we were, but aren’t any longer.
AT: Well, we really don’t know how big a technology carbon capture and storage will be. I think relative to what people expected eight years ago when I started being the chair of the UK Climate Change Committee it has been one of the areas which has been disappointingly slow progress. I think we have to put money into it to work out on how large a scale can it work. We probably definitely need it to decarbonise some uses of energy like in heavy industry where it’s very difficult to see another way forward. I think what’s less clear is whether it can really be a big technology in terms of decarbonising electricity production. We simply don’t know that. But it’s certainly a technology which we have to invest in to make it available as one of the portfolio of possibilities.
J: Lord Turner, Adair Turner, thank you very much.
AT: Thank you.