A new CAETS Energy report highlights that despite cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigating technologies emissions are still growing worldwide. The report suggests reducing emissions through the electrification of energy and mass scale implementation of existing technologies.

In their new report “Towards Low-GHG Emissions From Energy Use In Selected Sectors”, the Energy Committee of the International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS) reviews existing technologies which can be used immediately to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in seven key sectors. The examined sectors are Food and Agriculture, Buildings and Smart Cities, Oil and Gas, Chemicals, Cement, Iron and Steel, Information and Communication technologies.

The deployment of these technologies would lead to deep emission reduction before 2040. However, these technologies are not sufficient to meet net zero targets by mid-century. Net-zero goal describes the reduction of greenhouse gases in accordance with the 1.5 C goal, and the neutralization of the remaining emissions from 2050 onwards. Therefore, the report also highlights research and development needs for new or improved technologies and demonstrations for the near ready technologies (RD&D).

The new report was written by the members of the Energy Committee in 2021-2022. The Report offers insights, conclusions and recommendations that are useful for leaders of industry, governments, professional organisations, non-governmental organisations, and citizens to reach the 2030-2050 goals on GHG emissions.

Electrification is the key to reduce emissions

The report indicates that reducing GHG emissions, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), can be achieved through the electrification of all or part of the energy used, from home heating and cooking to industrial processes. The potential of the reduction depends on the sources of electricity, which highlights the importance of decarbonising the production of electricity. Electricity and heat categorised as low-carbon are mainly produced by hydro, solar, wind and nuclear power.

In addition to low carbon electricity, central to reducing emissions is low-carbon heat, including the direct thermal use of solar radiation or heat networks using low-carbon sources and waste heat from industry. The report reminds that some industrial processes cannot be fully electrified, like cement production.

Another approach is to capture the CO2 which is produced on industrial sites and to use it or to store it underground (Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage, CCUS). The report indicates that the use of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will certainly be needed to reach “net-zero” by mid-century.

Mass scale implementation of existing technologies, research and development are required

The report emphasises the urgency of actions to reduce emissions and advocates massive and rapid deployment of the available technologies. The difficulty lies in implementing them quickly and affordably, in a way that is tailored to each country, region and sector of activity. This will not be possible without long-lasting support from governments and, last but not least, consumers and citizens. 

Some of these technologies are already deployable while others are near-to-deployment and promising. Together, these technologies allow very significant emission reductions. However, the report stresses the importance of supporting RD&D and developing interaction between universities and engineering companies to improve existing technologies and promote the development of new ones. This provides opportunities to explore potentially new, easier and shorter paths to succeed in globally reducing our GHG emissions in the next 27 years.

Read the Full Report: https://www.newcaets.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/CAETS-ENERGY-REPORT-2022.pdf

CAETS (The International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technical Sciences) is a global cooperation forum of engineering and technical science academies. The Council of Finnish Academies is a member of CAETS. In 2024 the chair of the cooperation forum will be Mika Hannula, the vice president of Turku University.