Blog: What's at stake at COP 23

What's at stake at COP 23

What's at stake at COP 23

Andrew Purvis
Director, Safety, Health and Environment, worldsteel
13 November 2017

COP 23, the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference is currently underway in Bonn, Germany. Negotiations at the conference continue in earnest, as despite the drama and celebration witnessed two years ago with the finalisation of the Paris agreement a lot of the details remain to be decided.

Having agreed to limit global warming, the COP must now agree a “book of rules” affecting everything that has been promised. This might sound unimportant but it will cover a raft of critical issues, for example around monitoring and verification of the pledges made by countries – because commitments are voluntary checking whether they are actually being delivered by countries will be key.     

The COP is also seeking to agree the format and mechanics of the 2018 ‘Facilitative Dialogue’ and the ‘Global Stocktake’, which will take place every five years once the Paris Agreement is operating. These processes are an opportunity for countries to assess what has been achieved, and what remains to be achieved in order for the goals of the Paris agreement to be met. It is worth reflecting that while every country in the world is now part of the Paris Agreement (Syria signed this week, and the USA cannot legally withdraw until after the presidential election in 2020), commitments made by countries are not sufficient to deliver the goal of the agreement – to global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Other important issues to be addressed include ‘article 6’ of the agreement, which sets out the legal framework that would allow the use of international carbon markets to deliver the agreement’s goals.

While the main outcome of the COP will be only a draft, intended to be approved at COP 24 in late 2018, this document’s contents will lay a foundation that will govern implementation of the agreement, and therefore national and international climate policies governing competition between nations and between industries.

Given these stakes, a grand coalition of Businesses, Environment Groups and other constituencies has descended on Bonn both to advocate and to understand the progress being made.  The odd protest aside, the atmosphere is significantly less feverish and more earnest than in previous COPs.

The steel industry is also present at COP, supporting a number of parties as part of their official delegations and also as part of the Business (BINGO) constituency.

Chief Executive Officer of thyssenkrupp and worldsteel board member Dr Heinrich Hiesinger delivered a powerful keynote address at the start of COP’s traditional Business Day, organised by the International Chamber of Commerce. 

thyssenkrupp CEO Dr Heinrich Hiesinger delivering keynote address

thyssenkrupp CEO Dr Heinrich Hiesinger delivering keynote address at the start of COP's Business Day

In his speech, Dr Hiesinger expressed strong support for the Paris Agreement but cautioned that an aspiration to ‘decarbonise’ the global economy could be misleading, given carbon is, and is likely to remain, the backbone of many products and manufacturing processes. The question, he argued, is not how to eliminate carbon, but rather how to handle carbon in a sustainable way, moving away from “decarbonisation” towards net greenhouse gas-neutrality.

Around worldsteel’s global membership this issue is being addressed,

  • In Brazil, ArcelorMittal are using sustainably sourced charcoal to make zero-carbon iron in blast furnaces.
  • In the UAE, Emirates Steel is capturing CO2 which is being injected deep underground.
  • In the Netherlands, Tata Steel are piloting HIsarna technology, which was developed by the European ULCOS consortium.  HIsarna reduces energy use and CO2 emissions by 20%, and produces a pure stream of CO2 suitable for use in Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage.
  • In Germany, thyssenkrupp and their partners are developing „Carbon2Chem”, a project in which emissions from steel production are used as raw materials for chemicals, based on energy created from renewable sources.
  • In Sweden and Austria, Japan and Korea steelmakers such as voestalpine, POSCO, SSAB and industry research consortia are working on use of hydrogen as a replacement for carbon in ironmaking processes

So, which of these innovative technologies will solve our industry’s emissions challenges? 

It is clear that there is no single solution for decarbonising the power sector, with all available technologies including renewables, nuclear, fuel switching, CCS and energy efficiency likely to play a role. In the same way, it seems likely that steelmakers will adopt breakthrough technologies that fit with their own circumstances, and the answer may be ‘all of the above’.

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