In Texas, the energy industry plays an important role, particularly when it comes to green energy. Because of the prominence coal, oil, and renewable energy play in the Lone Star State, concerns over CO2 emission levels are equally important.

Burning fossil fuels and producing cement account for about two-thirds of all carbon dioxide (CO2) and industrial methane released into the atmosphere since 1854. Although the U.S. has cut more CO2 emissions than any other nation and is on pace to meet a 2009 pledge to reduce CO2 emissions by 17% (from 2005 levels) this year, global carbon dioxide emissions have still reached the highest point in human history.

The Trump administration dismantled Obama-era regulations that would have required power producers to slash CO2 emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. China is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases (by a large margin). The United States comes in second.

Union of concerned scientists

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Coronavirus pandemic affects COemissions

The impact on energy use and CO2 emissions due to the coronavirus pandemic has had major implications on global economies. In the first quarter of 2020, while many countries remained in full or partial lockdown, energy demand declined by 3.8 percent.

The hardest-hit industries include:

  • Coal. Global demand for coal fell by almost eight percent, compared to the same time in 2019. Low-priced gas and the continued growth in renewables globally, as well as mild weather across the U.S., capped coal use.
  • Oil. The demand for oil was down almost five percent in the first quarter of 2020. This was mainly due to shelter-in-place orders and reduced air travel due to COVID-19. Since air travel accounts for nearly 60 percent of oil demand globally, the impact on the demand for oil was significant.
  • Gas. Although not impacted to the same degree as coal or oil, gas still saw a two percent reduction in demand in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Electricity. Experts estimate the demand for electricity since the COVID-19 lockdown has decreased by about 20 percent. However, residential demand for electricity actually saw an increase and far outweighed the reduction in commercial and industrial operations as businesses remained closed.
  • Renewables.  This is the only energy source that saw an uptick in demand.

Energy companies step up to address climate change

Every year the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) addresses how the industry impacts changing weather patterns and greenhouse gas emissions. An increase in droughts, wildfires, and hurricanes, climbing temperatures, and rising sea levels have energy companies scrambling to address the consequences of climate change on weather patterns and the environment.

However, in the past six months, climate change has taken a backseat to COVID-19-related conversation. Even so, according to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, nearly a dozen energy companies world-wide have agreed to cut the output of emissions by 36 million to 52 million tonnes (a metric unit of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms) per year by 2025.

Energy-related CO2 Emissions from Industry, 2019

Center for climate and energy solutions

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How are COemissions produced?

Industries produce products and raw materials for use every day. The greenhouse gas emissions that industries emit are split into two categories, direct emissions and indirect emissions. The emissions come from the use of machines, computers, processing raw materials, heating and cooling buildings, use of petroleum in production, chemical reactions, and more.

  • Direct emissions are produced on-site at the facility
  • Indirect emissions are produced off-site and result from a facility using energy.

It’s difficult to weigh the cost to reduce greenhouse gasses to companies over time. Obviously, the long-term gains to the environment will far outweigh short-term expenses. There is no economy-wide tax on carbon. Instead, greenhouse gas mitigation policies provide subsidies aimed at certain technologies, like solar and wind generation and biofuels.

The role of renewable energy

Although all sources of energy have an impact on the environment, renewable energy – solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass – has substantially less. However, that’s not to say that renewable energy has no environmental impact.

Wind.  Wind power produces no global warming emissions or toxic pollutants. However, wind power can impact wildlife, birds, and natural habitats.  Land use and copper consumption can also cause issues for the environment.

Solar. Solar power produces electricity from the sun, which is cost-effective and leaves little impact on the environment. However, it can have an impact on greenhouse emissions with the use of hazardous materials during manufacture.

Geothermal. Geothermal plants use technology to convert resources from deep within the earth’s crust to electricity. Depending on the technology used, it can affect emission levels in the air.

Biomass. Both biomass power plants and fossil fuel power plants use the combustion of feedstock, like agricultural waste, forest products, and manure to generate electricity. How the biomass is generated and harvested can affect land use and add to global warming.

What can you do?

While you may not be able to influence large companies to change manufacturing processes, there are a few things you can do to stamp out even a small portion of greenhouse gases and CO2 emissions.

  1. Use your own reusable bottle or cup for water or coffee.
  2. Replace efficient bulbs in your home.
  3. Keep your thermostat a few degrees warmer or cooler.
  4. Recycle.
  5. Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
  6. Walk or bike to work.
  7. Don’t select one-day shipping unless necessary.
  8. Get outdoors, but pick up your litter.
  9. Use the SaveOnEnergy marketplace to find and compare renewable energy plans and rates available in your area.

This article by the Save On Energy Team was originally published at saveonenergy.com

Author Info:

Kathryn Pomroy is a freelance journalist from Minnesota who has written for dozens of major publications, magazines, and many well-known person finance companies. She is also knowledgeable in energy-related topics like renewable energy, climate change and greenhouse emissions. Kathryn holds a BA in Journalism.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

Energy is the lifeblood of all societies. But the production of energy from the burning of fossil fuels produces carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere on a grand scale. The energy sector accounts for more than 70% of these emissions, which are driving climate change worldwide.

Reducing carbon emissions from the energy sector has a direct and positive impact on climate protection. So there needs to be a transition from the current energy system that relies heavily on fossil fuels to a system that uses renewable energy sources that do not emit carbon, such as wind and solar.

We also need to look at things like the electrification of transport and embrace a circular economy that seeks to reduce waste and the demand for energy. This process has already begun, but we need to speed it up – we’ve been dragging our heels for too long and now things are critical.

This will not happen by itself; it requires policy choices. These must be global, involving all states. It’s no good changing the energies sector of just one country. Energy has long been considered to fall within the domain of domestic policy. Yet international climate action is driving the transition to a low-carbon energy economy, on the basis of scientific evidence that highlights the importance of reducing energy consumption for the climate.

This must be done as quickly as possible. Some countries are more committed than others, but the extent of how much is actually being achieved (or not) must be monitored. This can only happen through the cooperation of all states under international law. Cooperative regulation of energy demands innovative, flexible organisation and law-making at international and the regional level.

Energy action = climate action

The United Nations (UN) is at the forefront of this international cooperation. In 2015, the General Assembly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that set out the progress the global community wants to make by 2030 on the most pressing challenges, from proverty reduction to climate change and energy transition.

SDG 7 relates to ensuring access to clean and affordable energy for all. It contains indicators of progress on renewables, access to electricity and energy efficiency. SDG 13 relates to urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. These two goals work in tandem to encourage all states – developed and developing – to collaborate to make energy sustainable (meaning low-carbon), while ensuring access for all in every country by 2030.

That means international climate action equals energy action. The UN High-Level Political Forum is the place states get together to discuss progress on the SGDs, and where consensus is being (re)affirmed continuously.

SGDs 7 and 13 have been established and reinforced through the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is a binding treaty under international law adopted through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, by which the UN first addressed climate change in 1992. The agreement is the key international legal framework through which states aim to keep the increase in the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere to well below 2℃, and ideally limiting it to 1.5℃ by the end of the century.

Signing up to cooperation

Almost all states have ratified the Paris Agreement and so must abide by it. If any intends to withdraw from it, they must abide by the legal rules of the agreement. So the US would only be able to withdraw – as Donald Trump insists – after the next presidential election. In the meantime, his administration continues to abide by the Paris Agreement rules and actually takes a very active role in the negotiations.

Domestic action is necessary to implement the promises of the Paris Agreement. Every state is obliged to submit “nationally determined contributions” that set the scene for the most ambitious climate protection plan at the national level.

These national plans on climate protection have a strong influence on energies regulation at the domestic level. The “Katowice package” (the Paris rule book), adopted in 2018, provides further guidance. For developed countries, the Paris Agreement stipulates that they adopt eceonomy-wide greenhouse gas emission targets. These targets can only be achieved if the entire economy, including the energy sector, is “decarbonised”. That means that the use of fossil fuels has to end and be replaced by sustainable (renewable) energy.

Developing countries receive support under the Paris Agreement so that they too can move over time to economy-wide reduction targets. Only by acting together will the international community achieve the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

The 1994 Energy Charter Treaty, driven by the European Union and like-minded states, is emerging as the basis of transcontinental energy governance in Europe, Asia and Africa. This treaty covers energy investments, trade, freedom of energy transit, efficiency, and resolution of disputes. It is now modernising to support the energy transition.

Cooperative energy regulation also occurs on a regional level, and that is the case in Europe as well as Asia and Africa. The EU has adopted a frontrunner position with a strategy precisely based on the Paris Agreement till 2080, driving the transition of the continent’s energy system. Called the Clean Energy Package, it will create a transboundary, continent-wide energy system that better integrates renewables, improves efficiency and empowers consumer choice. Even after Brexit, the UK will likely remain connected to this market, as both the EU and the UK share the objective of achieving net zero carbon by 2050

If humanity is to achieve its goal of fully and speedily transitioning to low-carbon energy while ensuring affordable access for all, then we must stay focused and committed and continue to cooperate internationally. The future of the generations that follow depends on it.


This article by Volker Roeben was originally published on TheConversation

About the Author:

Volker Roeben is Professor of Energy Law, International Law and Global Regulation at the University of Dundee, as well as a visiting Professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, Beijing, docent at the University of Turku and adjunct Professor at the University of Houston.

Prior to coming to Dundee, he was a Professor at Swansea University and a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. He has held visiting professorships inter alia at the University of Chicago School of Law, has served as a clerk to Justice Di Fabio of the German Constitutional Court, and advised the Energy Charter, the European Parliament, international organisations and national parliaments.

Volker’s research combines energy law with public international law, European Union law and the theory of global law, with several books and numerous articles published and a research monograph on the EE Union in press with Cambridge University Press. He also serves on the board of the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

 


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