Opinion by Mathew Carr
Nov. 1-2, 2021 — LONDON AND GLASGOW: Climate action isn’t just about cutting emissions.
It’s also about increasing the world’s ability to absorb heat-trapping gas from the atmosphere — that is, emission removals.
This can be done in so many ways that saving the world seems achievable, rather than a distant dream.
Check out this hopeful slide from a panel speaking on Monday in Glasgow, hosted by the International Emissions Trading Association:
Ten Big Climate Hits
Globally, the climate maths is crucial. If the world really can halve emissions to about 25 billion tons by 2030 — or get substantially there — and deforestation stops by then (as per news from Glasgow), the world will already be well on track to net zero.
If the world gains the abilty to absorb about 25 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere every year…mainly by better forest coverage, but also carbon removal…then a global climate solution is in sight…and by 2040, a decade early.
Now, a surprising country may be willing to showcase a new concept.
You’ve heard of the cyclical economy …where goods are recycled to the point where recycling is cheaper than extractive industry.
Could we see the rise of the cyclical fossil-fuel economy?
Climate activist No. 1 Greta Thunberg will hate it. Until she realises it just might work. She might even have to apologize for her “nobody’s doing anything” comments.
Namibia is the country — the land of the Cheetah – willing to go fast on climate action.
Namibia has characteristics that can make it a climate-saving powerhouse.
It has fewer people per square kilometer that most other countries, so fewer NIMBYs (not in my backyard types) — that’s more space to build vast arrays of solar panels and huge wind farms. It has a massive desert that runs down the Atlantic.
Actually, being situated between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts, Namibia has the least rainfall of any country in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Wikipedia. That’s good for producing reliable solar power.
It also has the capacity to absorb huge volumes of carbon under ground.
So, Namibia could even expand in fossil fuels and make hydrogen from them. During that process it can effectively ensure hardly any of the emissions end up in the atmosphere.
Green hydrogen could also be produced using solar and wind via electrolysis.
There’s also the possibility of direct-air-capture of CO2.
The country is seeking to create an enabling environment to attract private investment, said Benedict Libanda, chief executive of the country’s Environmental Investment Fund. “Namibia aspires to be a clean hub for Africa,” he said at the IETA event.
The country is launching this week it’s green-hydrogen strategy, identifying three sites — and it’s hoping for a total investment of $12 billion, he said. The nation has a joint venture with Germany to collaborate on hydrogen production and supply, the German government said in August. Germany needs vast quantities of the stuff.
The country is also seeking to create emission credits from nature-based solutions.
“While our contribution to GHG emissions is just 0.003% of the global share, we are committed to climate leadership
and intend to promote more successful and bold steps to solve the climate problem facing the world today,” said Pohamba Penomwenyo Shifeta, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, in the country’s 2021 Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris climate deal. See note 2.
Others on the IETA panel said Namibia ticks many of the right boxes.
“What do you need for direct-air capture and carbon-engineering technology?” asked Robert Zeller, Vice President -Technology – Low Carbon Ventures at Occidental, a carbon capture specialist and oil company seeking to transform into a greenhouse-gas-abatement group. It’s behind the planned C-Capsule system, by the way.
“You need emissions-free power and if it doesn’t exist you have to build it and that can be solar, it can be wind, it can be other technologies. You need good sub surface so you don’t have to build a pipeline from whereever the capture is to whereever you sequester it. You need water also, in our technology. So if you have water, good subsurface and emissions-free power, you can put direct-air capture anywhere around the world,” he said.
While Namibia is also the most arid country in sub-Saharan Africa, that problem might be overcome.
If Namibia and Germany can successfully demonstrate solutions for seawater desalination and hydrogen production under such extreme conditions, “we could provide a blueprint for other regions and lay the basis for the global scale-up of the hydrogen economy. This is why seawater desalination is at the heart of German-Namibian cooperation,” Germany said.
Previous analyses have shown that desalination only has a very minor effect on the price of hydrogen as it accounts for only about 1% of production costs.
“We expect costs in Namibia to be equally low,” Germany said (see document below).
Namibia intends to be able to export green hydrogen even before 2025. Due to the country’s low population density and moderate population growth, it will be able to meet its own demand for renewable energy and green hydrogen quickly and thus cross the export threshold relatively fast.
That’s why demand for traditional fossil fuels, including crude oil, might fall more quickly than some assume.
“The National Hydrogen Council estimates that hydrogen demand of German industry alone (excluding refineries) will amount to 1.7 billion tons per year – and this demand is likely to grow further. This estimate underlines that we need large amounts of hydrogen and we need it quickly and at low cost. Namibia can provide both,” Germany’s Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek said.
German-Namibia Hydrogen Plan document:
- See above https://www.statista.com/statistics/1108355/largest-carbon-capture-and-storage-projects-worldwide-capacity/#:~:text=The%20Shute%20Creek%20Gas%20Processing,owner’s%20enhanced%20oil%20recovery%20projects.
- Namibia NDC: https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/ndcstaging/PublishedDocuments/Namibia%20First/Namibia%27s%20Updated%20NDC_%20FINAL%2025%20July%202021.pdf
(Updates headline and adds context, comments. More to come)