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The term ‘sustainable development’ was first coined in 1987 in the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development report, Our Common Future. Almost 30 years later, the concept of sustainable development is more relevant than ever.
The definition given in the report is, to this date, the most widely accepted modern definition of the term: ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Climate and society, energy, water, ecosystem health and monitoring, global health, poverty, urbanization, natural disasters, food, ecology and nutrition – these are some of the main problems that need to be tackled when discussing the possibility of sustainable development.
Owen Paterson’s remarks on the UK response to climate change miss the point. I do not disagree with him that the UK decarbonisation strategy should be improved. In particular, there is a need for a more effective strategy on energy demand. However, my preferred policy and technology mix would be very different to his and include the acceleration and expansion of the CCS commercial demonstration programme in order to reduce the energy penalty and overall costs of CCS. And without CCS, there is no way responsibly to use the shale gas he wants the UK to produce in the coming decades for electricity generation or in industrial processes, or any other fossil fuels.
The United Nations Climate Summit 2014, to be held in New York on 23rd September, comes at an important point in the calendar for discussions on how to address climate change. Next year will see nations submit pledges on their future greenhouse gas emissions levels, as part of the United Nations process culminating in the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris at the end of 2015, the ambition of which is to secure a global agreement to tackle climate change.
There is now a rich body of evidence on the implications of mitigation at the global, regional and national levels.
By Dr Niall Mac Dowell, Centre for Environmental Policy
For centuries, all of the world’s economies have been underpinned by fossil fuels. Historically, this has primarily been oil and coal, but since the mid-1980s natural gas has become increasingly important. Over the course of the last decades, there has been an increasing focus on electricity generation from renewable sources, and since about 1990 carbon capture and storage (CCS) has become an important part of the conversation around the mitigation of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The role of CCS in addressing our GHG mitigation targets is clear and unambiguous – see for example the IEA CCS technology roadmaps which show that by 2050, almost 8 GtCO2/yr needs to be sequestered via CCS; a cumulative of 120 GtCO2 in the period from 2015 to 2050.