As those interested await the next move by the U.S. regarding its participation in the Paris climate deal, others—notably China and the EU—are planning to move forward toward goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
If U.S. President Donald Trump opts to pull out of the accord, the U.S. would join Nicaragua and Syria on the sidelines. Reuters reported May 31 the president said: “I’m hearing from a lot of people, both ways.” An announcement is anticipated June 1.
In the past, the president has voiced disapproval of the agreement. There are concerns with the U.S. paying to support global warming programs elsewhere. Trump, who is seen as pro-business, supports bringing back jobs in the coal industry as the energy industry embraces natural gas, continues to lower emissions from oil and gas sites and grows renewables’ share of the energy mix.
If some of corporate America’s biggest players get their way, the U.S. will remain part of the 195-nation pact. Dow Chemical Co. and ExxonMobil Corp. are joined by Apple Inc., Tesla Inc. and Unilever NV in their support of the agreement reached in 2015, according to news reports.
In addition, poll results released in November by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication show 69% of the registered voters surveyed said the U.S. should participate in the agreement. Of these, 86% were Democrats, 61% were independents and 51% were Republicans.
The administration is split with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for exiting the accord and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, against leaving.
It’s difficult to reasonably argue against the environmental benefits of reducing emissions and cleaner burning fuels. Regardless of what Trump decides, innovation and growth in this area will continue globally. And some oil and gas companies, realizing the benefits of natural gas, wind and solar to power energy needs, are already onboard. Goals of lowering emissions create business opportunities worldwide.
Companies like Statoil are working to capture renewable business opportunities while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
“More countries are now developing new renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions, and this creates exciting business opportunities. Statoil is actively seizing these opportunities by building on decades of experience in oil and gas,” the company said on its website. “We are already innovators in offshore wind and a world leader in carbon capture and storage. Our ambition is to grow profitably and potentially expand into other sources of renewable energy.”
Good news is that wind and solar capacity are growing and becoming more affordable for consumers.
But good policy-making plays a key role in all of this.
“In many cases, support policies and frameworks are giving renewables a strong push—globally, the IEA [International Energy Agency] estimates that US$750 billion in economic incentives have been provided to renewables over the past decade,” the IEA’s Laura Cozzi, Tim Gould and Paolo Frankl wrote in commentary June 1. “While falling costs are reducing the need for financial incentives, policies are still essential to set the necessary conditions for growth.”
Investors respond to incentives when they are available, but back off when policies are weakened or withdrawn, they said. “Policymakers need to step up their efforts in this area.”
So do the innovators.
When it comes to clean energy technologies, only a handful of those tracked by the IEA is making progress toward meeting long-term emissions objectives.
Solar photovoltaic and onshore wind, electric vehicles and energy storage were on track. However, 15 were listed as needing improvement and eight were listed as not being on track. These included carbon capture and storage, renewable heat and bioenergy, concentrated solar power, ocean energy and geothermal.
The energy industry has proven that it is capable of overcoming challenges with technology. Let’s hope that policymakers will continue to help, innovators will stay focused, and investors continue chasing opportunities.
Velda Addison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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