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A Net-zero emissions world: Mission Possible

This year’s theme was ‘A Net-zero emissions world: Mission Possible’ and picked up on the role of consumers and society in driving the pace of change, and whether ambitious transition timelines can coexist with sustainable economic growth, both of which are topics relevant to California where the energy transition is well underway.

The opening session featured Mallika Ishwaran, Shell Senior Economist, in a panel discussion on the interplay of several key milestones; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning advocating accelerated near-term action to tackle climate change before 2030, California’s state-wide goal to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2045, and Shell’s Sky scenario, which illustrates a technically possible but challenging pathway for global society to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070 – a timeframe compatible with holding the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C.

The afternoon included a series of interactive breakout sessions:

Breakout 1: Carbon Neutral Power

Most consumers know Shell as a retailer brand for gasoline, but Shell Energy North America is among the largest wholesale energy marketers and traders in North America. Shell trades and markets to commercial and industrial customers across California, and most other deregulated markets in the U.S. In addition, over one-third of the power generation we manage comes from renewable assets. Adding additional renewable assets is essential, whether in front of, or behind the meter, but equally important is integrating these new resources into the grid and doing so economically. If not, and if access to alternative power is not equitable for all end customers, then these new business models won’t scale at the rate society needs them to. As a global integrated enterprise, Shell can deliver holistic energy solutions that could uniquely help address our customers’ sustainability, energy procurement and portfolio risk management goals. We heard from two of Shell’s business leaders who are working closely to advance energy transitions in the power sector.

Breakout 2: Advancing Nature-based Solutions

According to research by The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute and others, stopping deforestation, restoring forests and improving forestry practices could cost-effectively remove 7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030. However, there are several challenges to maximizing natural climate solutions as an incredible carbon reduction tool. These include public acceptance of the science related to measuring carbon reductions from natural sources; global agreement on a methodology of accounting for carbon credits (Article 6 of the Paris Agreement) and the mechanism needed to bring the resources (money, land, people, etc.) needed to scale carbon capture through nature so global society can achieve the carbon reductions needed to reach a lower carbon world.

This session focused on the above challenges with the aim to explore creative ways to build a sustainable and globally scalable market for natural climate solutions.

Breakout 3: Mobility in an Increasingly Urban World

We are more than 50% urban as a species now, and the UN projects close to 70% of us will live in urban areas by 2050. Density can increase energy efficiency, so how do we take advantage of increasing urbanization and the momentum across many global cities to adopt resiliency strategies in the pursuit of long-term sustainability? Do new lower-carbon transportation options such as electric bikes, scooters and carshare offer added opportunities to plan our cities differently, even when retrofitting new transport modes into pre-existing city designs? What other advantages may exist as a result of so many mobility disruptions? 

Breakout 4: Can we fly and emit less?

Commercial aviation helps drive more than 10 million American jobs and 5 cents of every dollar of U.S. GDP. Airlines and air fleets transport people and goods around the world safely, efficiently and economically. The industry supports and creates new markets at home and abroad, as communities across the world rely on access to air transportation for economic growth and stability.

Aviation requires large volumes of carbon-intensive fuel to power it, so to fly more and emit less will take ever greater partnership and collaboration across the value chain of sector stakeholders. Solutions will need to span the near-term to long-term; those that can deliver carbon reductions in the more immediate future, alongside continued investment in those that will provide greater benefit at scale in the longer-term.

This “fishbowl” session allowed participants to present views and initiatives linked not only to sustainable aviation fuel, but on solutions that include emissions avoidance and off-sets, to explore the role of each.

The audience then reconvened for an engaging plenary session on how public and private entities work in new ways to boost the pace of technology development and adoption, across industries.

Finally, a closing plenary featured Chad Holliday, chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, and Energy Transitions Commission Commissioner, who discussed how tackling climate change can only be met through a multi-faceted, collaborative approach to which we all contribute.

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