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COP26 – Countdown to Arrival – Diary day <0

31 lokakuun, 2021

On 1st of November, the COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow will begin. I will be there for the first week, trying to fight for more effective, pragmatic and evidence based climate and energy policy. If you know me, you might know that in other words, I will be fighting for nuclear power to be properly included and used to its full potential – instead of being ignored and even banned like so many times before. We really, really need to get our shit together, normalise how we see and treat nuclear. Otherwise this climate mitigation stuff will just go to shit.

And before you start getting any ideas of me getting nuclear industry to pay for my stay and work, I am here partly on my own expense, partly paid by a new European NGO called RePlanet (but more on that on later posts I guess – It’s REALLY exciting thou!).

My new report, commissioned by Ökomoderne E.v.. How much would Germany avoid CO2 emissions if it would keep the remaining 6 nuclear plants open? You guessed it, around one billion tons. That is a lot. It would enable Germany to quit coal burning by around 2028.

To help out, I am taking a couple dozen of the latest report I authored, called One Billion Tons – CO2 Reductions and a Faster Coal Exit in Germany. Get the pdf here, it is available both in English and in German.

This time, my trip started early as I was invited to give a presentation at a ”New Nuclear for the Netherlands Beyond 2030” -seminar in the Netherlands, at University of Twente campus. At the Helsinki Airport, the first headwind struck me, as right when I got my baggage checked in to the plane, my carry-on backpack’s zipper broke. It was a sleek anti-theft, all black business-backpack that I carried my laptop and other necessities in. And now it was falling apart in my hands, useless.

My new standard-issue travelling gear.
(Yes, I recently moved to Apple. The power/performance ratio of these new ones was just too much to resist).

”No worries!” I thought. ”I will just go to one of those fancy airport stores that sell expensive travel gear like bags and buy me a shiny new one!” Except, thanks to the Plague, none of those stores were open. What was open, was the Moomin-store, because surely people must not be denied their uplifting Moomin-merch even (and especially) in hard times such as these, right? They had lots of all kinds of Moomin-stuff. And surely enough, they also had a sleek, anti-zipper, black (and quite expensive) Moomin-backpack. I was saved, and so was, partly, the store owners slow day of business.

The next headwind struck me when I landed in Amsterdam and went (with 50 kg of books and reports in 4 separate luggage bags and backpacks strapped around me) to get a train that would take me closer to the University of Twente, where the seminar would be held on the next day. Except that the whole station was in a shutdown, as a train had caught fire at the station. I was starting to get nervous, because there was very little information about anything, and what little there was, was in Dutch (not one of my stronger languages, is Dutch). Eventually, with some help from strangers (they are the absolute best!), I managed to get myself on a train that went into the right direction.

From the train station, it was a good 10 km to the university campus hotel. So I went (again, with 50+ kg of stuff hanging on me or being dragged behind on loudly squeaking wheels) to the station’s taxi-pole. Except, there were no taxis there. After making my most ”tourist in distress” act since,.. well, since at the airport train-station a couple hours before I guess, another stranger offered to help me out. Long story short, I managed to book a taxi, and then when the website asked me for payment for the trip, the only options were local Dutch banks. So much for that taxi, I mean, it’s 2021, can we have Paypal or Apple pay or something like that please, everywhere? And yeah, this must be one of those 1st world problems, and it is also entirely possible that I just failed to understand something…

So I took the bus. Which meant that I had the unpleasure of dragging those books and reports all the way from the bus stop to the hotel, to the escalating sound of the wheels of my luggage screaming like I was murdering them, through the darkening university campus. But I prevailed, and so did the wheels, although the receptionist looked a bit alarmed when I finally crashed myself on his desk.

The next day, seminar was great, and people didn’t hate my presentation (on the contrary, got great feedback, even from the industry reps, whom I must have made a bit uncomfortable with some of my comments regarding the unhelpful stuff the industry is in the habit of doing and saying). The other presenters represented mostly the nuclear industry and utilities. Nuclear is really picking up in the Netherlands at the moment. The local utility that runs their only 500 MW plant today didn’t hold back, but clearly stated that ”yeah, we could use 2 or 3 GW of new nuclear, and we could put it right here (showing current site), but this also requires the government to support the idea.”

In the Netherlands, current policies are leading to around one fifth of energy use being CO2 free by 2035. I would laugh if I was not already crying.

Talking about support, he also showed the importance of low-cost financing, essentially doing a napkin-math version of ”nuclear NOT included in Taxonomy, cost of capital at 7%” and ”nuclear IS included in Taxonomy, cost of capital 4%”. The difference for the project was enormous. He also showed the utter failure that the current energy and climate policies are taking The Netherlands toward (see image). That was really eye-opening, and in a bad way.

When do we recognise this? Countries aim to decarbonise, and with proper government role and support (as we have for most other clean investments), that cost can be more than halved for investments like nuclear. And I mean, this is not ”cost” as in money used for more resources, mining minerals or additional labour. It’s additional money that we (as societies) give to bankers who create money with a few keystrokes when they make a loan. And the additional cost is there simply because we have bad and risky policies in place for certain investments. Makes no sense.

I would think it extremely worthwhile to keep those financing costs as low as possible, and government support, taxonomy, green finance, lower political risk, proper and effective market design are all ways to do that. It is our, and especially our policymakers’ choice to make how much our climate mitigation will cost, how risky it needs to be, and how it will redistribute wealth in our societies.

Ps. If you are interested in more context and COP-stories, see my diary from Poland (COP24), Germany (Bonn, COP23), and the one that started it all for me, COP21 in Paris.

From → COP26

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