COP26 Dispatch: Clean Tech & The Breakthrough Agenda

03 November 2021

Manasseh Franklin

Widespread clean tech is on the horizon. The latest evolution arrived on Tuesday at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasglow, Scotland. More than 40 world leaders representing two-thirds of the global economy signed on to the agenda, which prioritizes efforts to halve global emissions by 2030.

The Breakthrough Agenda is significant as aims to increase the accessibility—therefore lowering the cost—of green technologies for electricity, transportation, steel, hydrogen and agriculture. It offers a roadmap to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, which countries signed to take efforts to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, with the emphasis on temperatures rising no more than 1.5 degrees.

The first effort of the Breakthrough Agenda, called the Glasglow Breakthroughs includes the following priorities:

Power: Clean power is the most affordable and reliable option for all countries to meet their power needs efficiently by 2030.

Road Transport: Zero emission vehicles are the new normal and accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030.

Steel: Near-zero emission steel is the preferred choice in global markets, with efficient use and near-zero emission steel production established and growing in every region by 2030.

Hydrogen: Affordable renewable and low carbon hydrogen is globally available by 2030.

Agriculture: Climate-resilient, sustainable agriculture is the most attractive and widely adopted option for farmers everywhere by 2030.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced the agenda at Tuesday’s conference, said, “By making clean technology the most affordable, accessible and attractive choice, the default go-to in what are currently the most polluting sectors, we can cut emissions right around the world.

“The Glasgow Breakthroughs will turbocharge this forward, so that by 2030 clean technologies can be enjoyed everywhere, not only reducing emissions but also creating more jobs and greater prosperity.”

It is estimated that countries delivering on the first five breakthroughs could create 20 million jobs globally and add over $16 trillion across emerging and advanced economies.

How the Breakthroughs Work

Many technologies outlined in the Agenda already exist, including solar and wind generation, zero emissions vehicles and hydrogen, but the Agenda offers the opportunity for these technologies to be rapidly scaled.

In signing onto the Breakthrough Agenda, leaders commit to annually tracking, measuring and renewing progress through the Global Checkpoint Process, starting in 2022. The Checkpoint Process includes an annual gathering of leaders, annual State of Transition Report which will then be reviewed, increased emphasis on global collaboration as ‘a new part of the international climate fabric’, and shared shift from climate change as burden to climate change as opportunity.

Kickstarting efforts of the Glasglow Breakthroughs, global leaders, CEOs and philanthropists announced the following initiatives on Tuesday, as listed on UNFCCC :

-The launch of the UK-India led Green Grids Initiative – One Sun One World One Grid, endorsed by over 80 countries, to mobilize political will, finance and technical assistance needed to interconnect continents, countries and communities to the very best renewable sources of power globally to ensure no one is left without access to clean energy.

-The launch of the Global Energy Alliance for People & Planet with an initial $10 billion of funding from philanthropies and development banks to support energy access and the clean energy transition in the Global South, in strategic partnership with the UK-led Energy Transition Council.

-AIM4C, a new initiative led by US and UAE, with over 30 supporting countries, committed to accelerating innovation in sustainable agriculture, having already garnered $4 billion in increased investment in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation, including $1bn from the US.

-The Breakthrough Energy Catalyst program aiming to raise $3bn in concessional capital to catalyze up to $30bn of investments in bringing down clean technology costs and creating markets for green products for green hydrogen, Direct Air Capture, long-duration energy storage and sustainable aviation fuel including £200m of UK support.

-The First Movers Coalition, a US-led buyers club of 25 major global companies making purchasing commitments to help commercialize key emerging clean technologies across sectors like steel, trucking, shipping, aviation, aluminum, concrete, chemicals, and direct air capture.

The Future of Clean Tech

Of course, the success of all agendas are directly dependent on the action and follow through behind them. If world leaders, business leaders and philanthropists keep to these commitments, clean technologies could become cheaper than their emissions emitting counterparts, which is a crucial and exciting development on the path to net zero.