It’s time the industrial sector raised a big green thumb
Human-made climate change is real. The alarm bells are no longer just ringing in cautionary scientific reports; the devastating consequences are for everyone to see. Unprecedented heatwaves and droughts across Europe, the Middle East and Africa are affecting energy infrastructures.
Wildfires and floods worldwide underscore the need for drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the International Energy Agency, emissions from energy increased “to their highest level ever in 2021.” We must reverse this trend. We must shift our net-zero efforts into higher gear by decarbonizing our energy systems.
As the second largest emitter accounting for about a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions, the challenge of decarbonizing the industrial sector is particularly important.
Industries are at the heart of our economies; industrial products and materials lay the foundation of our modern societies: from food to medicine, from transportation to petrochemicals. We cannot do without these so-called hard-to-abate industries.
The global community has understood the need for rapid decarbonization. More than 190 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement, and the majority has set or is considering targets of reducing emissions to net zero.
In addition, over 1,200 companies have prepared science-based targets in line with net zero. And more than 1,000 cities, 1,000 educational and 400-plus financial institutions have joined the Race to Zero, an UN-backed global campaign.
From a pledge to reality
The question is: How do we get from pledging to implementing in the industrial sector?
Technology is not the issue. We have the technologies to decarbonize industries from renewable energy sources and electrolyzers to solutions in electrification, automation and digitalization.
We can support various industries by optimizing their energy consumption, electrifying their heating requirements and introducing green hydrogen into their processes.
However, two aspects would be decisive in advancing decarbonization in the industrial sector.
The first one concerns the ambitions of governments worldwide. Making good on net-zero commitments requires unprecedented investments in the massive expansion of renewable energies, grids and storage. It requires the promotion of green hydrogen by creating conditions that increase its scale and economic feasibility.
The second aspect is about green energy partnerships of experienced players in the industrial sector. In these rapidly changing times marked by divisiveness and extreme economic headwinds, experts from their respective fields need to pool their resources for the common good. Therefore, we need platforms founded in the spirit of cooperation and implementation.
A coalition of the willing
That is why there is no better time for a global initiative that promotes the transition toward clean energy in the industrial sector.
Therefore, the International Renewable Energy Agency and Siemens Energy as its co-founding partner have launched the Alliance for Industry Decarbonization at the G-20 Investment Forum in Bali, Indonesia.
The new coalition was officially launched by adopting the Bali Declaration, which comes just ahead of the UN climate conference in Egypt, COP27, sending a strong signal of collective action.
Over a dozen industry partners — Électricité de France, Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi, JSW Steel and TAQA — have signed the Bali Declaration. In addition, technology partners like Hitachi Energy and Technip Energies have joined to support their green ambitions – all led by IRENA as an experienced coordinator of multi stakeholder platforms.
We need to shift the focus from negotiations and planning to action. Above all, this COP needs to address the issue of finance, building on the actions agreed upon at COP26. It is crucial for developed nations to ensure that the energy transition is fair and equitable for all.
Meeting for the first time at COP27, the Alliance for Industry Decarbonization will do its part and develop strategies that encompass efficiency measures and renewable solutions. Together with a growing number of allies, it will contribute to achieving country-specific net-zero targets worldwide.
We invite all industrial players and policymakers to join this alliance and step up the progress toward net-zero industries across the globe.
- Karim Amin is executive board member of Siemens Energy.