HOT|COOL NO.1/2016 "COP21"


By Paul Voss, Managing Director, Euroheat and Power

in Paris, but this agreement is nothing more than the end of the beginning. It is only an agreement that the necessary work should begin. If we are indeed to secure the future of our planet for our children, our children’s children and their family pets, we will have to do far more and far better than we have managed so far, and we will have to do it far more quickly. Agreeing that we shouldn’t destroy our planet should be easy, but it proved difficult. It seems fair to assume that actually keeping this promise to future generations will be even harder. The science is stark and uncompromising. Global greenhouse gas emissions, the majority of which are linked to energy use, must be dramatically reduced over the coming decades. Solutions are available. A wide range of renewable energy sources are available and the technologies required to harness them are steadily becoming more cost-effective. These solutions will have to move from being the exception to the rule if the ambitions set out in Paris are to be realised. And while the transition to a renewable-based energy system typically evokes images of windmills, photovoltaic panels and electric cars, the simple and little-known truth is that the single largest source of energy demand is generally for neither electricity nor transport but for heating and cooling. Once this is understood, it becomes clear that district heating and cooling networks are much more than a ‘nice to have’ but rather an essential tool in the struggle to develop a truly sustainable energy model for the world. Why district heating? If you’re reading this publication, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with DHC’s (District Heating and Cooling’s) advantages. You know that these networks allow thermal energy that would otherwise be wasted to be transformed into a valuable resource with no additional environmental impact. You know they provide a vital route to market for renewable resources available in or nearby our cities. In short, you know they can help, but the case can be put more strongly than that. The argument is simple and compelling. 1. There can be no energy transition without sustainable cities since this is where both energy consumption and the associated emissions are concentrated. 2. There can be no sustainable cities without sustainable heating and cooling since these are and will remain the dominant energy demands. 3. District energy (Heating and Cooling) networks are without questions the most effective means of delivering large amounts of low carbon heating and/ or cooling into a dense urban environment.

For a few days in December last year, climate change and, more specifically, COP21 dominated the headlines of newspapers around the world. Billed as the last chance to get a global deal on tackling climate change, the negotiations felt like a life or death test for humanity whose outcome was entirely uncertain. In the end, after some last minute squabbles and a predictable delay, a deal was announced. Speaking in the aftermath, UK Prime Minister David Cameron proclaimed that “our children and grandchildren will see that we did our duty in securing the future of our planet”. Two months later, now that the champagne has been drunk and the victory parties have wound up, it seems right to reflect on what happened and what it means, not only for our planet, for our grandchildren but for our industry.

What was achieved? It is fair to see that the Paris accord was a genuinely historic occasion for humanity. After the disastrous breakdown of negotiations at COP15 in 2009, it was vitally important to rebuild a global consensus about the need to take meaningful and concerted action. In this sense, the agreement is an extremely important achievement. Commitments in principle to keeping temperature increases below 2°C and to regular (upward!) revisions of emissions reduction targets are essential prerequisites for meaningful action in practice. Had the summit failed to reach agreement on these points, it would have been extremely difficult to sustain the argument that effective political action to combat climate change was an achievable ambition. What (definitely) wasn’t achieved? Amidst all the post-conference euphoria, it seems to have escaped the notice of some people that agreements on paper are not a substitute for action on the ground. It’s fine for politicians to hold self-congratulatory press conferences, and, as stated above, there are reasons to be proud of what happened


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