Friday, 11 March 2016

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21)...by Ceri Vincent

I was really excited to attend and participate in side events at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) through support from CO2GeoNet and BGS. COP21 took place in Paris from November 30th – December 15th, 2015 and I attended for the second week of the conference.

Observing negotiations at COP21 (photo courtesy of CO2GeoNet)
BGS was able to access the negotiation zone through membership of CO2GeoNet. CO2GeoNet is a Research Association comprised European research institutes with a strong interest in geological storage of CO2. Currently, there are 26 research institutes who are Members of CO2GeoNet, with representatives from 19 countries.  CO2GeoNet has been an accredited Observer organisation of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a recognised ‘Research Institution Non-Governmental Organisation’ (RINGO) since 2013 and so was able to participate in COP21 through side events and booths in the negotiation ‘blue zone’ and the public ‘climate generations area’. CO2GeoNet co-organised four side events and a booth in both the climate generations area and the restricted negotiation zone. The presentations from these events and the materials used for the booths are available through the CO2GeoNet COP21 webpage.

Working area for observers within the negotiation zone
(photo courtesy of CO2GeoNet)
Overall participation of CO2GeoNet in COP21 was organised by the CO2GeoNet Secretariat. As Chair of the Executive Committee of CO2GeoNet, I was happy to be involved in co-organising a side event and was invited to present at another side event on behalf of CO2GeoNet. I also provided material on CO2GeoNet and on geological storage of CO2, including a short leaflet on what makes a good reservoir rock and a good cap rock for storing CO2 in deep geological formations, for the public booth. I led on preparation of a mini poster for the public booth so that the ECCSEL and ENVRIplus projects, which support science through sharing of research and data infrastructure, were represented at the public booth. All these activities helped keep me busy in the run up to COP21.

At COP21, I presented on ‘North Sea Basin CO2 storage opportunities’ at the Bellona side event ‘CO2 storage: from extraction to injection’. The CO2GeoNet President and I co-organised the side event ‘The role of CCS (Carbon dioxide Capture and Storage) in mitigating climate change’ with the Energy Research Alliance Carbon Capture and Storage Joint Programme, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute and EuroGeoSurveys. I also helped with staffing of the booths in which CO2GeoNet was involved in the negotiation zone and in the public ‘climate generations area’.

Booth in the negotiation zone (photo courtesy of CO2GeoNet) 
The booth in the climate generations area was an excellent opportunity to communicate the science supporting geological storage of CO2. The booth was visited by the general public, students, oil companies, academics and many other interested parties. Generally the view on geological storage of CO2 as a key emissions reduction technology was positive though there were some lively debates about how best to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, alterative options for reducing emissions and the role Carbon dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) could play as part of the pathway to a low carbon future. In line with the no-paper policy of COP, handouts were minimised but we still found most delegates wanted something to take away and luckily we had prepared plenty of business card-sized CO2GeoNet handouts.

Speaking at the Bellona side event
(photo courtesy  of CO2GeoNet)
COP21 seemed very hectic with so many side events to observe and participate in and much time spent talking to people who visited our booth in the ‘climate generations area’ and negotiation zone. However, when we were heading back to our rented apartment for some home-cooking, tired from a long day, negotiators and translators were working through the night.

The outcomes COP21 represent a turning point for stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Just after the COP21 conference, a consensus was reached: The Paris Agreement calls for emission pathways consistent with ‘holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C’. The next critical step is for each country to set out how they will achieve this tough target.

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