COP 26 Meeting is Biden’s Next Move on The New Map of Geopolitics and Energy: Daniel Yergin
The global focus on energy transition—coupled with the international embrace “net zero carbon” goals—is shaping the “New Map” of energy and geopolitics, especially in light of a global pandemic and rising U.S.-China tensions, says Daniel Yergin, IHS Markit Vice Chairman and author of The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations.
September 16, 2021. By News Bureau
When world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, convene at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow this November they will usher in the “next phase” on that map, one defined by the task of turning climate ambitions into practical action.
“Geophysical maps change very slowly. But political, technical and economic maps can change quickly, revealing new topographies that present multiple challenges and need to be traversed with care and thought,” Yergin writes in the new epilogue. “We are on such terrain today.”
In The New Map, Yergin, author of The Quest and The Prize (for which he received the Pulitzer Prize) surveys an energy world being reshaped by myriad forces—from the remarkable change in the energy position of the United States, to geopolitical tension with China and Russia, to the reappearance of the electric car and the growing global role of renewables—amid the added disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The book chronicles the rise of energy transition as a potent global issue and, in the new epilogue, one of President Biden’s most ambitious goals—reducing U.S. emissions by 50 percent by 2030, decarbonizing electricity by 2035 and achieving net zero carbon for the entire United States by 2050—representing an enormous change of direction for the United States.
Yergin points to the inherent tensions in the Biden administration. It is seeking to make “climate” a major criterion in every policy—from infrastructure to financial regulation—and pressuring the oil and gas industry in a way that could lead to increased oil imports. Yet Biden himself, in contrast to his major Democratic rivals, pledged not to “ban fracking” and, when he was a U.S. Senator, warned against dependence on foreign oil.
By the spring of 2021, more than 70% of the world’s total CO2 emissions—and 80% of world GDP—were under the net zero umbrella, Yergin writes.
“The very fact that so many nations have voluntarily embraced something so fundamental and so challenging as carbon neutrality is remarkable. What makes it even more remarkable is that much of this was done during COVID-19 time, when lockdowns became ubiquitous and economic activity, suppressed,” writes Yergin.
“Alignment with Paris”—the 2015 Paris climate agreement—has become a clarion call outside of government as well, Yergin observes. Financial firms, representing many tens of trillions of dollars of assets, have added “climate risk” to the criteria by which they make investment and lending decisions. More than 30 central banks have elevated “climate” into their mandates. “Climate disclosure”—aiming to demonstrate how company strategies align with the Paris goal—has become a requirement of company reporting.
Now the world is moving from the “after Paris” era to a new and challenging “post-Glasgow” phase, posing tough questions that will be on the global agenda for years, Yergin says.
“By now the ‘What’ has become clear in terms of energy transition—net zero carbon,” he writes. “But what remains uncertain is the ‘How.’ How to get all the way to carbon neutrality in a global economy that currently relies on fossil fuels for 80 percent of its energy.”
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