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COP21: Fast Track or Slow & Steady?


by John Brian Shannon | December 3, 2015

Examining the case for nations to meet reasonable CO2 emission targets by adopting a two-track plan to lower CO2 emission levels, while still adhering to the longer-term INDC model as suggested by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and COP21. We can use the U.S.A. for an example of what this could look like.

Part I: U.S.A. bans coal-burning by 2020

  1. Conversion of all existing coal-fired power plants to natural gas (such conversions are now a mature industry)
  2. CO2 emissions from those converted power stations would drop by half
  3. Non-CO2 pollutants and particulate emitted by coal burning would be eliminated — which are toxic to humans, livestock and agriculture and damaging to exterior concrete and metal infrastructure
  4. A total solution to the fly ash disposal problem
  5. Water usage falls from 1100 gallons/MW to 800 gallons/MW
  6. As natural gas becomes a baseload energy, gas prices stabilize
  7. Healthcare costs would fall
  8. Agriculture costs would fall
  9. Infrastructure maintenance costs would fall
  10. More coal available for export (We’re not responsible for other nations’ total emissions, only our own emissions)

Significant progress towards tapering U.S. emission levels would occur by 2020 from a single (and simple) regulatory change.

All of the natural gas-fired power generation extant in America after 2020 would need to continue producing electricity (especially to provide power at night) as more solar and wind power capacity is added to the U.S. grid. Utility companies that invest in natural gas power plants prior to and after 2020, could feel assured their natural gas power plants would remain an important partner in the primary energy generation mix.

Part II: In addition, the U.S. government could still submit an INDC for 2030 and also submit a non-binding Deep Decarbonization Pathway (DDPP) to 2050 plan.

In that way, the United States could facilitate relatively rapid progress on short term CO2 emission reduction targets/non-CO2 related externalities — and continue to work towards meeting the (long term and non-binding) DDPP targets that are fine-tunable over the coming decades.

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