Interview with the author (Joyashree Roy)

Innovation beyond existing technologies and business models is essential

Joyashree Roy, Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 5, IPCC Special Report on 1.5℃

kainuma: Thank you very much for sharing your time. Could you please tell us the key messages and implications of the Special Report on 1.5℃?

Roy: The first takeaway is that scientifically, it is not impossible to achieve 1.5℃. The second takeaway is that fossil fuel industries have to be shut down as soon as possible, although this will have significant impacts on the economy and employment that need to be taken care of.

The third takeaway is that it is possible to achieve 1.5℃ as well as other global goals, like the SDGs, at the same time.

kainuma: I agree that it is important to consider employment. Recently I interviewed Dr. Jiang Kejun, and he told me that the Chinese Government now no longer needs to support the introduction of solar energy as much as before because the price of solar panels has fallen. This has promoted the introduction of solar power through market forces. Meanwhile, China is thinking very seriously about how to create jobs for its 3.5 million coal miners. I think India has the same concern. Could you please tell me how the SR1.5 is being considered in India?

Roy: During one of the dissemination workshops in Delhi, I found that the Indian government thinks that this report is very useful. The report gives them guidelines to think about climate policies and areas that they should further strengthened. I think this report will be used effectively in the negotiations at COP24.

kainuma: What is important for increasing the ambition of reduction targets? What will be necessary?

Roy: Research and development are very important.

kainuma: Chapter 5 says that international collaboration is very important and needs to be strengthened more. What kind of collaboration is needed?

Roy: All mitigation measures should be accelerated to meet the 1.5℃ target, so international collaboration is very important. If you look into the energy supply side, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a major mitigation option for net-zero emissions. There should be more collaboration with respect to CCS. Technologies can advance more if you have more collaboration. We need more demonstration projects for CCS and they need to be in operation within 5 to 10 years. It’s not just financial transfer. We need more collaborative research and knowledge transfer. So more money is needed to promote this. More collaboration is needed—not only cooperation between the global North and South, but also within the global South.

India is in South Asia. We are working together with countries in South Asia, such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. We are also collaborating with ASEAN countries to conduct research on energy efficiency, renewable energies, and energy security.

kainuma: Please tell us about the Talanoa dialogue.

Roy: The Talanoa dialogue is an approach in which all stakeholders are involved in increasing their ambition to tackle climate change. From the mitigation side, the business community is important. Industries are moving to achieve net-zero emissions.

There are industries that are quite advanced now. For example, in Sweden, they are building a fossil fuel-free steel plant, powered by hydrogen.

As for energy, so far, everybody is talking about solar power, wind power, and energy efficiency improvement. But I think it is important to widen the scope of discussions. New energies such as hydrogen and geothermal should be promoted more. These could be game changers in industry.

This is because, if we promote hydrogen, CCS might become less important for industries. Only coal-based industries would need CCS.

In addition, demand-side transformation, such as the integration of the transportation sector, will become more important. We need a dialogue that emphasizes the horizontal connection between stakeholders. It is also important to gather wisdom in small groups and take a bottom-up approach.

kainuma: In Japan, the steel industry is also planning to have hydrogen-reduced iron smelting plants.

The Hydrogen Energy Ministerial Meeting held in Tokyo in 2018 promoted the creation of a hydrogen-based society. The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) has also proposed a hydrogen-based society.

Roy: Yes, that is written in the Global Energy Assessment published by IIASA. We need more advanced technologies in addition to solar and wind powers, as well as energy efficiency improvement.

kainuma: We need funding for technology development and deployment. Are investments in new technologies increasing?

Roy: It’s difficult, but we need to be going towards that.

kainuma: How about the linkage between climate policies and other SDGs? The price of renewable energies is still high compared to coal power generation. If renewable energy is promoted, aren’t there any trade-offs with SDGs, in particular, such as poverty eradication and energy access?

Roy: We need policies. Policies in the energy demand sector are important. With all sectors involved, the spread of new technologies will stimulate the whole economy. By investing in the energy demand sector, we can also improve energy access.

kainuma: What is the situation in India?

Roy: I really do not see much progress in terms of reducing fossil fuel use in India. Even now, a new coal power plant is getting built. If we continue to use coal power plants, we need to consider CCS. Even if the prices of renewable energies fall, we have more energy demand and it is difficult to meet this demand with only renewables.

kainuma: Is CCS being introduced in India?

Roy: They talk about CCS and supercritical coal plants, but not a single CCS demonstration project has been started yet. If they intend to continue using coal power plants, they need to start a CCS demonstration project immediately.

kainuma: Do you think that coal generation will continue?

Roy: Right now, all policies are in favour of cheap energy sources. I don’t think that coal power plants will be shut down in the near future. Even now, new fossil fuel power plants are getting built (although they are highly efficient). Of course, we see the expansion of renewables, like hydro, and nuclear. All types of energies are taking off. But all policy documents still mention that some coal power plants will continue to be in operation until 2050.

In Viet Nam, they are starting a new coal power plant. Bangladesh has started a new coal power station. They are regarded as cheap energy. The government of Bangladesh is planning to develop new coal mines. Nepal and Bhutan are special cases. They are using hydropower.

kainuma: Do they not have a carbon tax?

Roy: We have no carbon tax, but we have the carbon Cess, which is like a carbon tax.

The Cess is an old public finance instrument. India makes use of this instrument a lot in other sectors also.

The Carbon Cess was introduced in 2010 based on the “polluter pays” principle and has been used to finance and promote clean environment initiatives, especially for pollution management.

The Carbon Cess is around USD6 per ton of coal. If you convert it to a carbon price, it is very expensive. The revenue is used to fund subsidies for renewables and forest management. As the coal-based energy price is increasing and energy prices based on renewables are decreasing, it is expected that renewables will take off. In rural areas in India, renewables are becoming major energy sources.

kainuma: What is happening in the industrial sector?

Roy: We don’t see much progress in the steel industry, but the cement industry is trying to change a lot. They use the best available technologies in the world.

They are using fly ash from the power sector. The Indian government has a policy to mix 30% of fly ash into cement, which has caused the clinker demand to go down. In the future, we may need new technologies to compensate fly ash, which comes from coal power plants.

kainuma: Could you please tell me what to expect in the future work of the IPCC?

Roy: For example, in the Indian context, India is interested in impacts on agriculture. However, they could not see enough information in the report.

As such, there is less regional information in the report. I hope this could be reflected in the 6th Assessment Report.

At the time of the 5th Assessment Report, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry provided support to organise an international workshop. It was a good opportunity to share industrial knowledge, so I hope such workshops will be held in the future.

kainuma: I look forward to the development and deployment of innovative technologies. Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule.