At least 42 nationally determined contributions (NDCs) submitted under the Paris Agreement as of December 2021 indicate governments plan to utilize carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen and ammonia, and nuclear energy, including advanced nuclear, to reach 2030 goals. However, many of these technologies still aren’t commercially available or available at scale, and ensuring they can be deployed globally in time will require financial, technological, and capacity support to accelerate their deployment, a new assessment of NDC goals by the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) suggests.

2. A wide range of developed and developing nations plan to use technologies like carbon capture, hydrogen, and nuclear energy to meet their climate goals under the Paris Agreement—underscoring the importance of increasing funding and advancing research, government support, and international collaboration to commercialize these technologies quickly. Courtesy: Clean Air Task Force (CATF) 

The April 28–issued report, “NDC Assessment: How Do Advanced Low-Emission Energy and Climate Technologies Factor into Nationally Determined Contributions?” shows substantial interest from nearly every region of the world “to deploy and prove out advanced low-emission energy and carbon management technologies in different contexts and for different applications,” said CATF. CATF is a “pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy” group that works to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy technologies. Some of the world’s biggest economies, including Canada, China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, and the U.S. (Figure 2), plan to use all three technology areas as part of their climate plans, it said.

The assessment underscores the urgent need for action to enable technology diffusion, which is a priority the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) have also recently stressed, said Stacey Davis, Climate, Technology, and Innovation Policy Director at CATF. The IEA’s May 2021–issued “Net Zero Roadmap” for the global energy sector notably highlighted a finding that in 2050, “almost half of the reductions will come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase.”

Climate Ambitions Reliant on Unique Economies

“Each country is unique in terms of its economy, its geopolitical positioning, its geology, its climate, and its stage in the decarbonization process, and each will chart its own course to net-zero emissions,” Davis said. “It’s noteworthy, however, how much each of these assessed NDCs have in common. With each of these countries planning to rely on some form of advanced low-emission energy and climate technology, and with the IPCC and IEA acknowledging the importance of these technologies to a net-zero future, there should be no doubt as to the imperative of investing globally in research, demonstration, and development to ensure we can commercialize and rapidly deploy these solutions at scale,” she said.

Davis, who authored CATF’s assessment of global NDCs, said the organization chose to scrutinize NDCs because NDCs offer a country’s “highest possible ambition reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities and capabilities and considering national circumstances.” Most countries presented initial NDCs leading up to the signing of the Paris Agreement or in the one to two years following, but countries were asked to deliver updated NDCs in 2020 ahead of COP26.

“As of December 10, 2021, 194 countries have submitted at least one NDC, with 151 countries submitting an updated first NDC and 11 submitting a second NDC,” she noted. CATF chose an initial subset of NDCs comprising 41 countries and the European Union (EU) “based on expert judgment of countries that may be more likely to pursue one or more advanced low-emission energy and climate technologies. Future versions of this assessment are expected to expand on this list to include a broader set of countries and potentially a broader set of national policy documents,” Davis wrote.

CCUS, Hydrogen, and Ammonia a Priority for Several Countries

The assessment found that of CATF’s 42 analyzed NDCs, 14 include the use of carbon capture, utilization, and storage: Australia, Canada, China, Egypt, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, and the U.S. “Many of these countries may anticipate using carbon capture, utilization, and storage to manage carbon emissions from ongoing use of fossil energy production or power generation, but only Pakistan, the UAE and the U.S. allude to such applications,” the assessment says. Some countries expect to use carbon management with hydrogen production (for example, in Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and the U.S.), while others (Canada, China, Iceland, Indonesia, Morocco, and the U.S.), will use carbon management to prevent industrial emissions.

Another 16 of the 42 NDCs evaluated, meanwhile, include plans to use low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia: Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, EU-27, Jordan, Morocco, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, the UAE, the UK, and the U.S. Some of these countries intend to use only hydrogen produced with renewables: Chile, Jordan, Namibia, South Africa, and South Korea, while others, like Australia and Saudi Arabia highlight production of hydrogen from renewables and methane. “Notably, while several countries are planning to use both nuclear energy and low-carbon fuels and could therefore be open to hydrogen produced using nuclear energy (Canada, China, the UAE, the UK, and the U.S.), only the U.S. explicitly mentions this as an opportunity in its NDC, though the UK recognizes nuclear-fueled hydrogen in its Ten Point Plan,” the report notes.

At least 11 NDCs identify nuclear energy as a priority measure: Armenia, Canada, China, Egypt, India, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, the UAE, the UK, and the U.S. Of these, Canada, China, Egypt, India, and the U.K. “particularly emphasize advanced nuclear technologies. Several others are planning new nuclear energy but don’t specify whether they will use advanced reactors,” the assessment shows.

Countries plan to advance a variety of implementation measures, it adds. Canada, the UAE, and the UK plan to spur nuclear deployment through planning and strategy development, while India, Ukraine, and the UAE will establish goals for deployment. Several countries—Armenia, Egypt, India, Iran, Turkey, and Ukraine—will, however, rely on international financial or technological support to reach their nuclear energy ambitions, the assessment notes. “India specifically identifies fuel availability as a potential barrier. Russia is supporting a number of the listed developing countries,” it adds.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).