The Green Scene: Ireland, Net Zero Energy System by 2050 & African Forest Maps And Climate Change

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 May the 26th, 2021, Brian Ó Gallachóir spoke about Ireland, Net Zero Energy System by 2050 & African Forest Maps And Climate Change.

1.       How can Ireland meet a Net Zero Energy System by 2050?

1.      Last week we discussed the International Energy Agency report on achieving a Net Zero CO2 Emissions Energy System globally by 2050

2.      This week we discuss a recently published report by MaREI and Wind Energy Ireland how Ireland could achieve a net-zero energy system by 2050

3.      The report Our Climate Neutral Future: Zeroby50 highlights the challenges and opportunities associated with a radical change in our energy system

4.      It identifies three no-regrets options
a)       Energy efficiency first: Making our society energy efficient must be our first principle. The barriers to retrofitting homes and using more energy efficient technology must be eliminated. Investment is required to rapidly train the skilled workers we will need.
b)      Electrification: Electricity, not oil, must become the backbone of our energy system. Every form of transport or heating that can be electrified, must be, as quickly as possible.
c)       More renewables faster: Renewable energy projects like wind farms – on and offshore – and solar farms must be developed far more quickly, along with and sustainable bioenergy, to fully decarbonise our energy system.

5.      The three key messages arising from this analysis point to
a)       A Net Zero Energy System is technically feasible and can be achieved at a manageable investment.  All the technologies, concepts and interventions required to reach Net Zero exist today in some form, however they must be radically scaled up across the economy. Significant investment must be made to achieve this and as these investments are paid back over decades the investments as a % of GDP for a Net Zero energy system is relatively low
b)      Ireland must harness its vast renewable resources and increase energy efficiency. Both energy efficiency and increased renewable deployment are robust policy choices that reduce carbon emissions, save money, improve air quality, and reduce our dependence on imported fuels.
c)       Net Zero is technically possible but not easy. The journey to a Net Zero energy system is very hard. There will be difficult choices ahead and some headwinds. Infrastructure such as grid must be built, large investment must be sought, renewable fuels required, and homes and businesses transformed. Without these changes and societal and political support, a Net Zero energy system cannot be achieved. Engagement and transparency at an early stage with the public is key

2.       African forest maps reveal areas vulnerable to the effects of climate change

1.      The journal Nature reports on an analysis of six million trees revealing spatial patterns in the vulnerability of Central African rainforests to climate change and human activities.

2.      The Central African rainforests are the second largest area of continuous rainforest in the world, after the Amazon rainforest.

3.      They store more carbon per hectare than does the Amazon and, on average, have a higher density of large trees than does any other continent

4.      Human activities, notably logging and over-hunting, facilitated by an expanding road network, pose a serious threat to Central African rainforests and their value for society

5.      This article explore the importance of climate change, when acting on top of these existing human-generated pressures, for the future of these rainforests.

6.      Some forests in locations that have so far been relatively undisturbed by humans are more vulnerable to climate change than are those in areas already affected.

7.      For those areas already affected, the lower tree diversity as a consequence of human intervention reduces the capacity of forests to respond to climate change.

8.      It shows that the Central African rainforests are not a single bloc of forests, but instead encompass at least ten distinct forest types.

9.      The areas most vulnerable to climate change and predicted to be highly vulnerable to future human-induced pressures include forests in coastal
Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the northern margin of the domain studied.

10.   This finding suggests priority regions for targeted actions to protect forests from environmental changes.

11.   One such region under human pressure is in Cameroon and contains a forest group called degraded semi-deciduous forest.

12.   Protecting this type of forest offers a fast way of generating a carbon sink that will operate over a long time frame



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