Science, Technology & Engineering
The science and technology needed for the energy transition already largely exists, but requires optimisation. The transition is achievable. Nonetheless, we must scale and accelerate activities to achieve net zero targets. There are challenges in developing the capital front-end infrastructure expenditures needed to achieve net zero. We must focus on technology to remove greenhouse gases at large scale (i.e., multiple technologies capable of removing at least one billion tonnes year), but also respect trade-offs within the global ecosystem. The costs of the engineering solutions are not considered a blocking point. As for wind turbines, EV, solar power capacity, etc., costs are expected to decrease with deployment. However, a capital injection of ~£3.5 trillion – at least three times current capital deployment – is needed.
- Carbon Capture: Accelerate the implementation of carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) and bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) as a vital technology to achieve net zero along with reconversion of methane and water to produce hydrogen.
- Nuclear energy: Although nuclear fission energy to date is the only low-C source for which costs have increased year on year, it needs to be part of the solution, especially as a reliable baseload, with a focus on small nuclear reactors. Research in nuclear fusion should be maintained.
- Critical Materials: Manage the demand for critical metals to achieve electrification and the environmental consequences of mining, especially in the developing world where artisanal sources are still predominant for critical metals such as tin, tungsten, tantalum (the 3 Ts) and lithium. New battery and fuel technology developments must change metal demand.
- Transport: Create a new infrastructure for transport, and decommission conventional transport systems. Implement growth in EV, electric rail, urban trams, as well as innovation in marine and terrestrial freight logistics and airline travel. Develop low-to-zero-C fuels for transport, including synthetic fuels, which may replace EV in time.
- Ocean biomimicry: Engineer through biomimicry and use the oceans as a reservoir for carbon, for which we can enhance carbon uptake: i) through natural systems (enhanced fish stocks, kelp beds, cold coral, and warm coral installations) and ii) through ocean-seeding and refreezing in polar regions – e.g., with cloud brightening technology.
- Engineering: The ethos of engineering must progress rapidly by adopting a duty of care for achieving the required fossil-fuel, nitrogen oxide and other man-made GHG reductions. This shift needs to mirror the scale of progress achieved by modern-day safety engineering.