Climate change mitigation: What now?


I believe that at least one positive outcome from COP26 of November 2021 is that there is sufficient commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 with a peak global warming of 1.50C. What is now needed is a mindset change and a systems approach to solving the problem. Collaboration is essential between governments (who establish policies and regulations) and commerce and industry (who have the technologies and are able to implement them), as well as across different industries so as to share technologies and approaches.

To achieve net zero by 2050 three factors need to be applied to mega projects: scale, systems and speed.


To obtain the required massive reduction in carbon emissions in the short time available, massive projects are needed.


We have a range of technologies. We now need to combine them and then apply them harmoniously.


As with the production of the vaccine for Covid 19, we need to use the collaborative effort of government and the private sector to fast-track the global warming mitigation effort.

Developed countries can lead with technology and finance, and developing countries can leapfrog technological applications as they don’t necessarily have the baggage borne by many developed countries. Examples are already found in Africa where cellphones have taken over from inadequate landline connections with added applications such as phone banking. Micro electrical grids from sustainable wind and solar projects have also been established where national electrical grids have not penetrated. The transfer of technology from the developed to the developing world is essential for this to happen.


The application of scale based on applying systems knowledge to combine existing technology into practical applications in a short time-span is needed. Once the model has been proven, replication can proceed at a rapid pace. Some examples of this are:

Using wind and solar to generate electricity and produce hydrogen

The generation of wind and solar power is dependent on prevailing weather conditions, which is often not in sync with electricity demand. Electricity generated from excess power could be used for the production of hydrogen. The combined technology for wind & solar generation, hydrogen production, transport & storage, long distance electricity transmission, and the integration of different sources of power for selection and use needs to be integrated for a smooth supply of electric power to customers as it is needed.

UK Northern Horizons project

The project envisages 10 GW of “giant” wind turbines on floaters more than 130 km from Shetland powering multiple floating installations that will produce green hydrogen (10 GW is the equivalent of  up to 10 nuclear generating units!). The hydrogen will be transmitted to a net-zero hydrogen refinery on Shetland, which, powered by floating wind turbines, will produce zero-carbon energy products such as ammonia, liquid hydrogen and synthetic fuels for local use and export. The project could be in operation from 2030. 

Namibia $9.4bn green hydrogen project

Once complete, this wind & solar integrated facility will have a renewables generation capacity of 5 GW and an electrolyser capacity of 3 GW, with surplus electricity capacity to be fed into the Namibian grid and potentially into the regional power pool.

BEHYOND  project

EDP and TechnipFMC, together with research partners, have launched a joint project to develop a conceptual engineering and economic feasibility study for a new offshore system for green hydrogen production from offshore wind power.

Electric power transmission and distribution

With a multitude of small and large variable power sources being fed into electrical grids, grid control and management is becoming a nightmare. In addition, renewable sources such as wind and solar are often quite remote from consumers. There are two areas of development that will enhance the availability of remotely generated power and and help to stabilize the grid. They are:

Smart Grids

A smart grid is an electricity network enabling a two-way flow of electricity and data with digital communications technology able to detect, react and pro-act to changes in usage as well as multiple other issues. Smart grids have self-healing capabilities and enable electricity customers to become active participants.

Meshed High Voltage Direct Current (HV DC) grids

HV DC grids are used to connect asyncronous grids, essentially enlarging the grid to better manage volatility. For example, the HV DC connection between Saudi Arabia, whose grid operates at 60 Hz, and its neighbouring Gulf states, such as Bahrain and Qatar, which have 50 Hz grids. Meshed and multi-terminal HV DC grids integrate large scale and remote renewable energy resources. China is the first to have a HV DC meshed grid.

CO2  from cement production

The production of cement, a key component of concrete, involves combustion processes that release CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change. Each year, approximately 3 billion tons of CO2 can be traced back to cement production, representing 8% of global carbon emissions, so there is an urgent need to develop more sustainable alternatives. Here are a few examples of how this CO2  is either reduced or completely eliminated:

Cement production in Norway

Heidelberg Cement started to investigate emission mitigation 15 years ago. They combined technologies and industries for deposit of CO2 in offshore oil and gas wells. Heidelberg Cement will have the first industrial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at a cement production facility in the world at Brevik in Norway. This is planned to capture 400,000 tonnes of CO2 annually and transport it to permanent storage.

Concrete recycling in Switzerland

The Swiss construction company Eberhard has introduced Zirkulit, a low-carbon, circular concrete that is largely composed of recycled materials. The aggregate material in Zirkulit concrete is made up of about 85% recycled, secondary material, massively reducing the need to mine primary material from gravel quarries. The use of recycled building material also reduces the waste stream. Recycling also cuts down the transport distance of heavy materials and helps maintain the integrity of natural ecosystems. Additionally, Zirkulit concrete is optimized to use about 7% less cement than conventional concrete while providing the same mechanical and chemical qualities as conventional concrete.

Concrete CO2 injection in USA

CarbonCure manufactures a technology for the concrete industry that introduces recycled CO₂ into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance. Once injected, the CO₂ undergoes a mineralization process and becomes permanently embedded. This results in economic and climate benefits for concrete producers.

The mass application of electrolysis and fuel cell technology to produce and apply hydrogen for electrical energy storage and use.

Electrolysis of water is an important technology for the production of hydrogen to be used as an energy carrier. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolysis is the electrolysis of water in a cell equipped with a solid polymer electrolyte. The use of a PEM for electrolysis was first introduced in the 1960s by General Electric. This is the most common means of producing hydrogen from electrolysis today. 

A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity through an electrochemical reaction, not combustion. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined to generate electricity, heat, and water. Fuel cells have been used in NASA space programs since the mid-1960s to generate power for satellites and space capsules. Today Proton-exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are dominating the market. In the transport sector they are being used for anything from forklifts to ships and aircraft.

Heavy transport hydrogen networks and vehicles

Fuel cell buses were introduced by Ballard as early as 2010 at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Another player is Hyzon Motors which is based in Rochester New York, originally the home of Kodak. Hyzon, which produces heavy road transporters, has established partnerships to network the distribution and availability of hydrogen. The development of fuel cell cars is being led by Honda, Toyota and Hyundai.


Sustainable aviation fuel still emits CO2 , but in slightly smaller amounts. The “sustainable” title is derived during production of the fuel, but the challenge is to produce aircraft that don’t emit CO2 . Hydrogen fuel cell technology is already being tested for small propeller aircraft and jet engines will need to convert to hydrogen as a fuel. Engine technology is progressing to enable hydrogen propulsion in the next few years, however storage is an issue.  


Fuel-cell powered ferries are being trialed in Scandinavia, with the world’s first liquid hydrogen-powered ferry, the MF Hydra, being powered by Ballard fuel cell modules. This vessel has a capacity of up to 300 passengers and 80 cars.  


Fuel cell trains are being trialed in countries such as Spain, Germany and Switzerland. In Australia, a major mining company is planning to convert their ore trains to fuel cell propulsion. 

Petrochemical industry

Proprietary technology is being developed for the conversion of plastic waste, production of sustainable fuels, as well as emission reduction. Here are a few examples:


Neste has successfully concluded its first series of trial runs processing liquefied waste plastic at its Porvoo refinery in Finland. The company is advancing chemical recycling to turn plastic waste into a valuable raw material, strengthening circularity. Neste has set itself the goal of processing more than 1 million tons of plastic waste per year from 2030 onwards.

Johnson Matthey

Johnson Matthey recently revealed the launch of HyCOgen, a reverse water gas shift technology designed to help enable the conversion of captured CO2 and green hydrogen into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

Honeywell UOP

Honeywell recently announced a new single-stage version of the UOP Ecofining™ technology for the production of renewable diesel fuel.

Haldor Topsoe

PureStep™ utilizes Topsoe’s hydroprocessing technology to remove impurities from liquified feedstock. This means new plastics can now be created from low-grade mixed waste such as tyres, municipal solid waste and products containing PVC.

Steel Making

If the steel industry were a country, its carbon dioxide emissions would rank third in the world, just below the US and above India. Aside from churning out 1.86 billion metric tons of steel last year, steelmakers generated over 3 billion tons of CO2, corresponding to an astonishing 7 to 9% of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions. This is equal to the emissions from cement production. Proprietary technology is being used to reduce emissions from existing steel plants and to change the way steel is being made. For example:

Lanzatech bio remediation

LanzaTech’s carbon recycling technology uses bacteria to convert pollution to fuels and chemicals.

LanzaTech, and its joint venture partner, Shougang Group, a leading Chinese iron and steel producer, recently announced the successful start-up of the world’s first commercial facility converting industrial emissions to sustainable ethanol.

Use of Hydrogen

Some approaches rely on hydrogen from electrolyzers powered by renewable electricity, while others use that power directly in electrochemical reactions. The Hydrogen Breakthrough Iron-making Technology (HYBRIT) process aims to replace the coke and other fossil fuels used in traditional, blast furnace-based steel-making and instead relies on hydrogen created with renewable electricity. The process should lower carbon dioxide emissions in all stages of steel-making, including pelletizing iron ore, reducing iron oxides to iron, and producing crude steel.

Rio Tinto

The world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation, Rio Tinto, said it was focused on studying three potential pathways towards net neutral steelmaking; using sustainable biomass with Pilbara iron ore to replace coking coal in the iron and steelmaking process; using hydrogen-based hot-briquetted iron (HBI) with high-grade ores in Canada; and using hydrogen direct reduced iron (DRI) with a melter for Pilbara ores. (Pilbara is in West Australia.)


Scale, systems and speed are there. Behavioral change is required to make things happen. The key players need to get off their butts and do something.

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