Head of Energy and Materials Industries, World Economic Forum
Roberto Bocca is a member of the Global CO2 Initiative Advisory Board and Head of Energy and Materials Industries at the World Economic Forum.
Harsh Vijay Singh
Project Lead, World Economic Forum
Harsh Vijay is Project Lead of the System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Energy at the World Economic Forum.
Q: What role do you see carbon technology playing as we work towards achieving our climate goals?
A: The world’s remaining CO2 budget is shrinking fast, while global annual emissions have increased for the last two years. Fossil fuels still contribute 80% of the total primary energy supply and will continue to play a significant role in the energy mix for next few decades, especially in developing economies. Coal accounts for more than a third of global electricity generation. Significant proportion of coal fleet in Asia is relatively new, which means they could be operational for two or three decades.
Hence, a wide array of options needs to be simultaneously deployed at scale for climate change mitigation and adaptation. In addition to zero carbon technologies for power, transport, and industry, negative emission technologies will play an essential role in meeting the climate goals. The IPCC endorsed this in the Special Report released last year. Though currently at initial stages, carbon technologies – including carbon capture, sequestration, and utilization and biological solutions targeting land use emissions – will play a critical role.
Q: How do we drive and materialize the opportunity for economic growth and prosperity offered by a new carbon economy?
A: Current economic growth pathways are CO2 intensive. Addressing economic growth concerns is critical for progress on climate change goals. Capturing CO2 at point sources and from the atmosphere will be a net cost unless the captured CO2 is put to productive applications in a cost-effective manner. Many of the products we use in our daily lives are made from carbon, which could be sourced from the captured CO2 from power sector or heavy industries. To accomplish this, a new carbon economy needs to be designed upon the principles of circularity, to efficiently and consistently manage carbon at an industrial scale. Given the magnitude of the challenge, large scale deployment of technologies leveraging carbon has the potential to create new industries and employment opportunities for capture, transport, and utilization of CO2.
Carbon capture and utilizations technologies have improved substantially over the past decade, though their large-scale impact remains to be proven. The number of active installations worldwide is gradually increasing. However, like any technology in early stages, it requires a set of bold interventions to advance from laboratories and pilots to large scale commercialization. This implies innovative financing mechanisms and appropriate incentives to bridge the investment gap, policy interventions such as labeling, standards, and public procurement to create an enabling environment, and public-private collaboration to accelerate research and deployment of carbon technologies.
Q: What efforts have you seen internationally that you feel should be scaled broadly?
A: Stakeholders from public and private sectors have stepped up efforts to accelerate innovation and deployment of carbon technologies. In recent years, governments in EU, US, UK and others have launched large public funding programs to support research, development, and demonstration of carbon technologies. Similarly, industry alliances such as Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) are investing in emerging solutions. Carbon pricing schemes have been implemented in different parts of the world, which cover approximately 13% of global GHG emissions. However, the scale and time-sensitive nature of the climate challenge requires large scale replication of such efforts, as well as more collaboration between different stakeholder groups. Investments need to be directed towards solutions at different stages of maturity, including basic and applied research, demonstration, pre-commercial, and late stage solutions, for a healthy pipeline of mature carbon technologies.
Political commitment demonstrated through Paris Climate agreement and subsequent national pledges are yet to materialize in tangible impacts. Public awareness and acceptance are key to accelerating the deployment of carbon technologies. Carbon emission labels in consumer products are yet to be implemented across major markets globally. Uniform standards for measurement and verification, coupled with awareness campaigns, will help in adoption of carbon labels across the world.
Q: What is one piece of knowledge or advice you want to share with students or entrepreneurs in this space?
A: Transition to a new carbon economy requires mobilization of interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral expertise and resources. The challenge is not just limited to technology innovation and deployment- it impacts the society and economy at a fundamental level. Given the system inertia and complexity, we need to activate all possible options – including technological, financial, and regulatory instruments, using platforms that enable multi-stakeholder collaboration to amplify efforts and harness synergies.
Q: What is missing in the debate?
A: The debate needs to be more fact-based and transparent. While zero carbon technologies have altered the energy landscape over the last decade with declining costs and increasing efficiency, meeting climate goals in a limited time scale will require mobilization of negative emission technologies, including engineered and biological alternatives. A global consensus on this issue and platforms for collaborative action across industries and stakeholders are necessary for resource allocation, research collaboration, and political support necessary to fast-track the deployment of carbon technologies.