The electric industry is a hodgepodge of interests; High-carbon coal, lower-carbon natural gas, and near-zero-carbon nuclear. Each has a lot to gain and a lot to lose depending on the outcome of the Copenhagen climate talks. And the winner will depend largely on the agreed-upon targets for reducing emissions. Carbon-heavy power generators would like far-off targets. Carbon-light companies stand to gain from near-term goals.
John Scowcroft represents a variety of interests for Eurelectric, the European association of electric power companies. One of Europe’s most prominent lobbyists on climate change, Scowcroft came here to Copenhagen to wander the halls, to “loiter,” as he put it in a recent article about industry influence on the UN process. He comes across country delegates in the conference center and does what he can to repeat the Eurelectric position: the industry needs long-range targets and an immediate and clear framework to spur investment.
Like many industries, electric power interests will host a side event next week, showcasing their assessment of how the world could become “carbon-neutral” by 2050. It’s a typical stance of carbon-heavy industries today; no longer do they fight to deny that climate is changing or that the world needs to change how it uses energy. “We have to be carbon-neutral by 2050,” says Scowcroft. “We’re looking for a framework to lead us there.”
For carbon-intensive power companies, the ideal outcome for a UN framework would feature major carbon reduction targets by the year 2050 or thereabout — allowing them to outfit their plants with technology to sequester carbon and store it underground. If faced with nearer term targets, Scowcroft adds, many companies would have to turn to natural gas — a technology investment that wouldn’t payoff in the long run.