What needs to happen rapidly for climate and energy security?
The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull AC
Barcelona, 17 May 2022
On behalf of the Green Hydrogen Organisation, GH2, welcome to this Global Assembly.
Thank you to the Government of Spain for their assistance in staging this Assembly and especially our co-host the Deputy Prime Minister of Spain, Theresa Ribera, who will address us all later today.
And thank you all for attending - Government ministers, civil society, business and academic leaders.
Together over the next two days we must be the accelerant that galvanises the global community - governments, business and the civil sector - to rapidly ramp up the production and deployment of green hydrogen.
We simply cannot meet the challenge of global warming without green hydrogen. Hydrogen, nature’s super fuel, which produces no greenhouse gas emissions when used and, if it is green, creates no greenhouse gas emissions when it is made.
To get to net zero, we have to stop burning fossil fuels and we cannot do that without green hydrogen.
In some sectors we will have the choice between electrification and green hydrogen. But in so many emissions intensive industries green hydrogen and its derivatives like green ammonia or green methanol are the only options.
There are so many examples, heavy transport, shipping, cement - but take steel. 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Using hydrogen instead of coal to make green steel eliminates almost all greenhouse gas emissions and is arguably the most efficient use of green hydrogen with one kg of H2 saving 26 kg of CO2 emissions.
Green hydrogen is the essential enabler of the transition to a safer planet, to a decarbonised future, one that we can responsibly leave to our children and grandchildren.
We have almost every resource we need to meet this challenge. We have the technologies, and they are getting better, we have the resources and above all we have the leadership.
But one resource is limited and shrinking.
And that is time.
If we are to keep global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees, greenhouse gas emissions need to peak in less than three years - by 2025. Emissions must then reduce by 43 percent in 2030.
Net zero 2050 targets are fine But we can’t wait until 2050. And we certainly can’t get to net zero by 2050 unless we make much greater cuts in emissions now.
Kicking the can down the road, hoping that some new technology will turn up - environmental Micawberism- might work in an election campaign, but the physics of global warming is not susceptible to wishful thinking.
For many, too many, years those who defended the continued use of fossil fuels succeeded in delaying action by turning climate change into a political or values issue. And in some countries they still do.
But saying you believe or disbelieve in global warming is as foolish as saying you believe or disbelieve in gravity.
The massive global mobilisation of capital, technology and people that we need to cut our emissions needs engineering and economics, not ideology and idiocy.
Last year the world added a record 295 gigawatts of new renewable power capacity.. Yet last year's unprecedented growth in renewable energy is nowhere near fast enough to meet our climate targets..
To stay on track for 1.5 degrees warming, 65% of the total electricity supply in 2030 will need to come from renewable sources, compared with 26% in 2019.
The fact remains that based on current trends we are on track to run out of emissions budget to stay within 2 degrees of warming in 2044. Within only six years (2028) we will have exhausted the emissions budget to stay within 1.5 degrees.
We are running out of time.
Global warming and the devastating climate changes it brings has always been a national security issue. For some nations, especially in the Pacific, it is completely existential.
To those dragging their feet on climate action we have always been able to say - the inexorable consequences of global warming will not be delayed by your inaction.
Now we can add, and especially in Europe, you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.
Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has underlined the unsustainability of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. We have stopped debating if green hydrogen can save us. Now we are debating how quickly we can make it happen.
The inescapable and uncomfortable truth is that western Europe has been indirectly funding the war. Oil and gas revenues constitute an estimated 45% of Russia’s budget and are critical for the continuation of the war.
The situation remains volatile, governments are working hard to secure new energy supply chains and to shelter consumers from higher energy prices.
Tomorrow (May 18) The European Commission will release legislation with the details of how the EU will wean off its heavy reliance on Russian fossil fuels. Diversifying oil and gas supplies away from Russia is only a short term fix.
The only long term solution for saving the planet from global warming and saving the world from Vladimir Putin is to stop burning fossil fuels and for that we need green hydrogen.
One of the most important things we will do this week is release and discuss the Green Hydrogen Standard.
This has involved extensive consultation with scientists, environmentalists, industry, government and civil society.
It is a very detailed standard but at the heart of it is this:
“Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced through the electrolysis of water with 100% or near 100% renewable energy with close to zero greenhouse gas emissions.”
To develop the global green hydrogen industry the world needs we must agree on what green hydrogen is.
We will invite producers of green hydrogen to have their projects independently accredited by GH2. Projects that meet the standard will be licensed to use the label “GH2 Green Hydrogen” and will be eligible to obtain and trade GH2 Certificates of Origin.
The Green Hydrogen Standard expressly does not deal with other forms of hydrogen which are claimed to be low emission. Their proponents can make their own cases - but they should not seek to use the label green for their hydrogen.
I will make some observations however about blue hydrogen. As you know most hydrogen today is produced by steam reformation of methane. It is very emission intensive, resulting in 11 kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kg hydrogen and indeed the making of hydrogen currently produces a similar amount of greenhouse gas emissions as steel making.
The natural gas industry has argued that by capturing the CO2 and sequestering it under the ground, or capturing it in some other way, they can make this process low emission, in net terms, and they have called it blue hydrogen.
May I just observe that for many years I have been involved with policy and government support for carbon capture and storage. When I was John Howard’s Environment Minister 15 years ago we had high hopes for CCS and billions have been spent on it. But regrettably it has very rarely worked. That's a fact.
Now another fact is that we know we have the tools to make abundant green hydrogen today. The biggest cost input is renewable electricity and the cost of that is continuing to decline.
So it follows that government policies and financial support should be focussed exclusively on green hydrogen.
Green hydrogen is the future and there is neither need nor time to delay.
And that is why another objective of this Assembly is to launch our campaign for at least 100 million tonnes of green hydrogen to be produced by 2030.
I am pleased to say that Dr Andrew Forrest, a fellow founder of GH2, and founder of Fortescue Future Industries has set his own company’s target of 15 million tonnes by 2030.
We are also launching the African Green Hydrogen Alliance - this is an alliance of six African governments, Egypt, Kenya, Mauretania, Morocco, Namibia and South African-all represented here today, to learn from each and accelerate the production and use of green hydrogen. It will be essential that with urgency we support developing and emerging economies becoming part of the green hydrogen revolution.
Estimates of future green hydrogen production vary widely and we will hear more about them over the next two days, but they all involve an almost exponential increase in production.
The BloombergNEF Green Scenario for example, estimates that by 2050 hydrogen will account for 22% of total final energy consumption. That’s 1,318 million tons of hydrogen.
This will require an enormous increase in electricity production - as much as a five fold increase in current electricity production.
While renewable electricity is the largest cost element in producing green hydrogen, we also need a massive ramp up in electrolyser production with an attendant reduction in unit cost.
Electrolyser capacity more than doubled in 2021, reaching 458 megawatts, and is expected to grow four- or five-fold in 2022. IRENA suggests the cumulative installed capacity of green hydrogen electrolysers needs to grow to some 350 GW by 2030.
The production of solar panels, wind turbines, ammonia plants and all needs to be urgently ramped up as well.
To reach net zero emissions by 2050, annual clean energy investment worldwide will need to more than triple by 2030 to around $4 trillion.
To realise that investment the market will need stronger leadership from governments. New and innovative ways must be found for planning and permitting of the infrastructure we need to get on with this part of the energy transition.
And leadership is what this Assembly is all about.
We know what we need to do - stop burning fossil fuels
And we know we cannot do that without a massive transformation of our energy and industrial systems to clean renewable fuels.
Green hydrogen is an indispensable part of this transformation.
So there is no time to waste and a planet to save which, Elon Musk notwithstanding is the only one we have got.
Original publication here.