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Main Energy and Climate Events of 2021 - Büşra Öztürk

2021 has been the year of the world's recovery after Covid. The decreased energy demand increased again, and we witnessed the events in which we avowedly observed the consequences of climate change. On the other hand, the year is ending which we have collected important energy stories that are anticipated to be effective in dealing with climate problems. As we wrap up 2021, I would like to convey the important energy and climate occurring together that I think left their mark on this year, with brief summaries. If you would like detailed information, you may access it with news links.

The US rejoins the Paris Agreement: On the first day of Joe Biden's presidency, the global agreement that mandates countries to set carbon limits targeted at keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius was reaccredited. On the former US President Trump administration's decision, the US formally departed the Paris Agreement last year and became the first and only country to formally pull out of the pact since it was enacted in 2015. The US President Biden emphasized that their actions on greenhouse gas emissions in the coming weeks, months, and years will be momentous. According to the agreement, the US will lower its emissions by around 25% by 2025 compared to 2005 levels under the parameters of the accord.

Global fossil fuels demand roared back: Demand for coal, natural gas, and oil has surpassed pre-COVID-19 highs with the growth of 4.5%, 3.2%, 3%, respectively. However, the rebounding puts a damper on the hopes that the pandemic would expedite the transition to renewable energy from fossil fuels. According to the IAE Global Energy Review 2021, the global energy-related CO2 emissions are on track to have their second-largest annual increase ever. This is because when the airplanes were grounded, industries were shut down, commutes were limited in 2020, the society did not replace any of those items for the world’s reopening, they were just turned back on once vaccines became available.

Extreme Floods and Wildfires: There was a devastating flood disaster in Germany, and we experienced such a disaster in Rize. Although ours is more due to misplacement and landslides, we have started to experience natural disasters, especially as the effects of climate change in 2021. Subsequently, massive wildfires have started to be seen all over the world due to the soaring temperatures and strong winds. I believe that the world is giving us very serious messages with these disasters as we need to take urgent actions regarding climate change. Unfortunately, these kinds of extremes might be happening more frequently in forthcoming years as global temperatures increase.

COP26 Climate Summit: Leaders from nearly 200 countries gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, to negotiate the possible global initiatives to combat climate change and to agree on new international climate targets, such as reducing methane emissions, beginning to transition away from gas-powered vehicles, and phasing out coal power. The most striking edit of the meeting was changing the phrasing from “phase-out” to “phase down” in the section dealing with coal. This linguistic change may potentially exclude countries from meeting their targets. While the meeting was not entirely satisfactory in terms of climate issues, constructive steps have also been taken. For instance, China and the US pledged to stop financing new coal power plants.

Green Steel Transformation has begun: Sweden, where is leading the transformation to green steel through two projects called Hybrit and H2 Green Steel, produced its first steel in late 2021 and plans to provide the market with zero-carbon steel at a commercial scale by 2026. Furthermore, major steel companies such as Arcelor Mittal and Nippon Steel have announced their carbon-neutral steel production goals. Zero-carbon steel will be a key fragment of decarbonization efforts, as steel production currently accounts for 7% of global greenhouse emissions, and steel demand is predicted to double by 2050.

First Energy Crisis of Green Transition: By the last quarter of 2021, Europe faced the prospect of natural gas supply shortages, and energy prices have surged to the highest record ever. The lack of gas inventories could be simply explained by the fact that Norwegian gas flows were lower than typical, and supplies from Russia were limited while it was rebuilding its own inventories. However, the outcome of this crisis is not that simple and tells an important story about the world is nevertheless dependent on fossil fuels despite international agreements and efforts to achieve net-zero emissions. The insufficiency of energy stockpiles brings ahead questions on the reliability of renewables and their efficiency of them. In this sense, it has been interpreted as the first energy crisis of the green transition.

Artificial Rain: Dubai created artificial rain to tackle the high temperatures crossing 50-degree Celsius. The rainfall is produced by the method of cloud seeding, which promises to help alleviate drought conditions worldwide. This operation might be beneficial in combatting drought, one of the problems that may arise due to climate change in the future.

Despite the inconveniences caused by COVID-19 or foul climate events, we are almost at the end of this year. I hope that we will learn from our experiences and move forward with stronger climate goals. Best wishes for a healthy, just, equitable, and cooler 2022!