Nuclear recognised as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise

2 December 2019

The United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP’s) Emissions Gap Report for 2019, published on 26 November, says global temperatures are set to rise by 3.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which means emissions must decrease by 7.6% a year to stop the worst effects of climate change.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have increased at a rate of 1.5% a year in the last decade, stabilising only briefly between 2014 and 2016. "There is no sign of GHG emissions peaking in the next few years; every year of postponed peaking means that deeper and faster cuts will be required. By 2030, emissions would need to be 25% and 55% lower than in 2018 to put the world on the least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to below 2 degrees and 1.5 degrees, respectively," the report says.

Following on from the International Atomic Energy Agency conference on climate and the role of nuclear power in October, the Brussels-based European Nuclear Society is organising a debate on climate emergency and what needs to be done to achieve climate objectives. This is scheduled to take place on 4 December on the sidelines of the United Nation’s COP25 climate change conference in Madrid with a webinar of the event broadcast online. Speakers will include NGOs, Nuclear for Climate, Global Initiative to Save Our Climate, Spanish nuclear industry group Foro Nuclear and the ENS Young Generation Network.

Spain’s nuclear industry group Foro Nuclear has called on COP25 to highlight the role of nuclear energy in the fight against climate change. “In view of the urgency of curbing polluting emissions, nuclear power plants are essential as they are capable of supplying large amounts of electricity without emitting CO2,” the group said.

On 28 November, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on COP25 recognising the role nuclear energy can play in meeting climate objectives. The resolution, adopted by 430 votes in favour, 190 against and 34 abstentions, said nuclear energy could ensure a "significant share of electricity production in Europe," but because of the waste it produces also requires a “medium- and long-term strategy that takes into account technological advances” to improve its sustainability. The final text of the resolution differed from the original, which had said “nuclear power is neither safe nor environmentally or economically sustainable” and had called for a transition strategy to phase out of nuclear power in the European Union (EU).

The parliament approved another resolution, which declared a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and globally, urging the European Commission (EC) to ensure all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals are fully aligned with the objective of limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. It urged the EU to submit to the UN Convention on Climate Change its strategy to reach climate neutrality as soon as possible, and by 2050 at the latest. While current EU targets are for a GHG emissions reduction of 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels, MEPs called on the new EC president Ursula von der Leyen to include in her “European Green Deal” policy package a 55% GHG emissions reduction target by 2030.

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