The ‘Green Scene’ Series on Newstalk is a weekly update on energy and environmental matters with Pat Kenny and MaREI Director Brian Ó Gallachóir.
On November 4, 2020 Prof Ó Gallachóir looked at the Impacts of US Election Result on climate action.
Impacts of US Election Result on climate action
- The United States is currently the second largest globally in releasing greenhouse gas emissions and is 1stplace over time (with the largest cumulative carbon dioxide emissions since the year 1750).
- The US will be leaves the 2015 United Nations Paris agreement to fight climate change for either 3 months or 4 years
- President Donald Trump notified the United Nations last year that America is exiting the climate agreement. This is due to take effect today!
- Joe Biden has pledged to put the country immediately back in the Paris agreement, which doesn’t require congressional approval.
- This will have implications for other countries and their commitments to climate action
- However, greenhouse gas emissions in the US fell by 1-2% between 2016 and 2019, which were similar to Ireland.
- Despite Donald Trump’s ambitions to ‘end the war on coal’, coal power generation in the US has reduced to less than three quarters of what it was since his inauguration.
- The reasons for coal reduction are not because of environmental policy, but the discovery of cheap shale (fracked) oil and gas.
- Joe Biden has an ambition to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050
- This is not fast enough for some – the GreenNew Deal has the same ambition over a much shorter timeframe
- The outcome of the election will have a significant impact on US emissions but also on global efforts to tackle climate change
Electrification of Transport Energy
- We are consistently reducing the CO2 emissions associated with electricity generation – less than half the amount of CO2 emissions per unit electricity since 2000
- However, electricity remains a small overall share of energy use (about one fifth)
- So, one key strategy within climate action is to use electricity for things we don’t normally use if for (i.e. for transport and heating)
- Nearly all of our energy usage in transport is currently oil based (petrol, diesel and jet kerosene)
- Electric vehicles are not new(electric cars and carriages stretch back to 1820s and 1830s).
- In the USA in the early 1900s, automobiles were powered 40% by steam,38% by electricity, and 22% by petrol, but range (50 – 65 km) and speed (25-30 km per hour) became a challenge.
- Henry Ford and mass production brought down the price of petrol cars (by 1912, EVs were twice the price of petrol cars).
- The past 10 years has seen a significant renaissance of EVs with a significant increase in range (300 km – 400 km before recharging) and reduced battery prices
- The price gap between EVs and petrol cars is reducing and the charging infrastructure is improving
- EVs now represent more than 50% of new car sales in Norway (about 4% in Ireland)
- EVs use about one-third of the amount of energy as petrol cars and are much cheaper to run
- EVs reduce emissions (displacing petrol and diesel combustion)
- EVs do not reduce congestion however – hence need to promote walking, cycling and public transport)
- Also, let’s not forget transport is not just car transport (we also need a focus on trucks, planes and ships freight)!
The REthink Energy series featuring Green Scene is supported by ESB and The Institute of International and European Affairs