COP28: 22 countries target tripling global nuclear energy capacity by 2050

5 December 2023

At the 28th Conference of the Parties to the original 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), 22 countries signed a declaration supporting tripling nuclear energy capacity by 2050. The document was signed by the heads of state, or senior officials, from Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ghana, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the USA. China and Russia did not sign, although they have the world’s fastest growing and most ambitious nuclear power programmes.

During the launch ceremony, US Presidential climate envoy John Kerry said the signatories believed the world could not achieve Net Zero without building more nuclear energy capacity: "We are not making the argument that this is absolutely going to be the sweeping alternative to every other energy source. But ... you can't get to net-zero 2050 without some nuclear," he said.

The text of the declaration was reproduced in full on the website of the US Department of Energy, which had helped to garner support for the initiative. The declaration recognised:

  • the key role of nuclear energy in achieving global net-zero greenhouse gas emissions;
  • the importance of nuclear science and technology in monitoring climate change and tackling its impacts, and emphasizing the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
  • that nuclear energy is already the second-largest source of clean dispatchable baseload power, with benefits for energy security;
  • that analyses from the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and World Nuclear Association show that global installed nuclear energy capacity must triple by 2050 to reach global net-zero emissions;
  • that analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows nuclear energy approximately tripling its global installed electrical capacity from 2020 to 2050 in the average 1.5°C scenario;
  • that analysis from the International Energy Agency shows nuclear power more than doubling from 2020 to 2050 showing that decreasing nuclear power would make reaching net zero more difficult and costly;
  • that new nuclear technologies “could occupy a small land footprint and can be sited where needed, partner well with renewable energy sources, and have additional flexibilities that support decarbonisation beyond the power sector, including hard-to-abate industrial sectors”;
  • IAEA activities in supporting its member states to include nuclear power in their national energy planning;
  • the importance of financing for the additional nuclear power capacity needed to keep a 1.5°C limit on temperature rise within reach;
  • the need for high-level political engagement to spur further action on nuclear power.

The participants pledged to:

  • Commit to work together to advance a global aspirational goal of tripling nuclear energy capacity from 2020 by 2050, recognizing the different domestic circumstances of each participant;
  • Commit to take domestic actions to ensure nuclear power plants are operated responsibly and in line with the highest standards of safety, sustainability, security, and non-proliferation, and that fuel waste is responsibly managed for the long term;
  • Commit to mobilise investments in nuclear power, including through innovative financing mechanisms;
  • Invite shareholders of the World Bank, international financial institutions, and regional development banks to encourage the inclusion of nuclear energy in their organisations’ energy lending policies … and encourage regional bodies that have the mandate to do so to consider providing financial support to nuclear energy;
  • Commit to supporting the development and construction of nuclear reactors, such as small modular and other advanced reactors for power generation as well as wider industrial applications for decarbonisation, such as for hydrogen or synthetic fuels production;
  • Recognise the importance of promoting resilient supply chains, including of fuel, for safe and secure technologies used by NPPs over their full life cycles;
  • Recognise the importance, where technically feasible and economically efficient, of extending the lifetimes of NPPs … as appropriate;
  • Commit to supporting responsible nations looking to explore new civil nuclear deployment under the highest standards of safety, sustainability, security, and non-proliferation;
  • Welcome and encourage complementary commitments from the private sector, non-governmental organisations, development banks, and financial institutions;
  • Resolve to review progress towards these commitments on an annual basis on the margins of the COP.

The declaration called on other countries to join the initiative. World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León said: "The significance of the Ministerial Declaration cannot be overstated. The countries supporting this declaration are making a resolute commitment, placing nuclear energy at the heart of their strategies for climate change mitigation. Their vision is one that strives for a sustainable, cost-effective, secure, and equitable energy mix all over the world.” She said the commitment to nuclear energy is not just a statement. “We take it as a challenge extended to the entire nuclear industry worldwide.”

The declaration was among a raft of COP28 announcements supporting decarbonising the energy sector, including a pledge by 118 nations committing to a collective effort to triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and to double the annual rate of energy efficiency improvements. This was led by the European Union, US and UAE. The pledge also said tripling renewable energy would help remove CO2-emitting fossil fuels from the world's energy system by 2050 at the latest. China and India did not support the pledge, although they have national policies in place to support tripling renewable energy by 2030 because it linked clean energy with a reduction in fossil fuel use.

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