Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are the darling of the fossil fuel industry since CCS offers the opportunity to continue increasing production, with the support of gargantuan government subsidies, while appearing to be green and gaining carbon price credits. But all CCS projects to-date have failed to live up to emissions reduction expectations and CCS is energy intensive. As such, CCS is a greenwashing narrative.
On a global scale, less than 10 percent of plastics are recycled. Plastics are ubiquitous, meaning regulating its use is especially complex. While Canada has only banned a half dozen of single-use plastics, the European Union and China are engaged in a holistic multi-year incremental approach to manage plastic production, distribution, consumption, recycling, disposal and substitution. Accordingly, the actions of these latter jurisdictions will influence global innovation and standards. By comparison, Canada’s plastic initiatives are symbolic greenwashing.
Putin’s war has created an electroshock for Europe because it depends on fossil fuel imports for 60% of its energy, one-third of which comes from Russia. Organically evolving European Union (EU) plans target 2027 for a massive and rapid transition to a green economy and energy independence. Renewables, electric vehicles, clean technologies and energy efficiency will all play major roles in the creation of fast-forward paradigms for global emulation. For the immediate, by the end of 2022, EU plans entail cutting Russia gas imports by two-thirds, substitution fuel sources plus ramping up renewables and energy efficiency. These EU plans will be devastating for the Russian economy. Russia needs European oil and gas revenues more than Europe needs these fuels.
Prior to the Russian barbaric invasion in Ukraine, announcements made by the oil and gas majors seemed to imply they were engaged in energy diversification. This diversification has been typically presented as that of increasing the proportion of their assets in clean technologies while reducing the exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.
Now, with the oil and gas companies earning windfall profits linked to the Ukraine war, inflation and European urgent short-term requirements for fossil fuel sources substitutes, the real truth is coming out. High fuel prices have revealed opportunist short term thinking prevails over lofty long-term goals.
Cargo and cruise ships represent 2.6 percent of global emissions and could reach 17 percent by 2050. Nearly all these ships use cheap dirty heavy oil with high sulphur content. International regulations aren’t helpful as they are lax and difficult to enforce. Fortunately, Maersk, the largest container shipping company in the world, has created the conditions for an industry-wide sectoral revolution by setting 2040 as a target to achieve net-zero emissions, requiring all new vessel acquisitions be carbon-neutral and has already ordered 12 green methanol powered ships. Concurrently, many new technological solutions are under development including ones associated with electric, wind and biofuel energy sources. Stringent territorial waters and docking standards, Maersk technological catalysts, financing of emerging remedies, could advance clean technologies quickly. Finally, open-loop scrubbers are widely used as a band-aid to remove sulphur from the exhausts to transfer the pollutants into the sea.
China is several years ahead of other developed countries on the migration to a green economy, in clean technology production capacity, massive market penetration and green investments. China already has an extraordinary global green export potential. China leads in renewables, electric vehicles and battery production, incrementally regulating plastic solutions, high-speed rail, private clean tech investment, government environmental support and green bonds. China’s concurrent climate actions are gamechangers destined to have huge global competition impacts on energy, economic, transportation, industrial and other paradigms, perhaps more so than the climate crisis. But there are simultaneous contradictions. China is the world’s largest liquified natural gas importer, once again ramping up coal production and certainly not a leader on human rights.