COP26 – Hydrogen! Hydrogen! Hydrogen!

We’ve noticed our partners roll their eyes and change the subject whenever we mention hydrogen in polite company.  Perhaps they have the right to be a little weary of us proselytizing on the subject. However, it sounds like they’d have had to flee Glasgow if they’d been at COP26.  Discussion of hydrogen was everywhere.  We spoke with members who attended to get a sense of what the fuss was about.

COP26 was split into three elements with the main events being hosted in the Blue Zone where countries negotiated the main climate change agreements and national ‘trade’ stands hosted their own presentations and talks.  In specific talks, particularly around heavy-duty transport, hydrogen was on the agenda.

The public area of COP26 was the Green Zone which featured a UK-centric industrial area where hydrogen was heavily on display.  Of the 10 featured companies four displayed hydrogen powered products: Wrightbus had a double decker bus with a Ballard fuel cell that had also driven up from London (about 650km) as a pre-COP event; Rolls-Royce had a stationary generator; JCB had hydrogen combustion powered earth moving equipment and Ocean Ways a hydrogen fuel cell submarine. Ryze Hydrogen also hosted a display in the Green Zone featuring a video about hydrogen production and distribution.

Outside the official COP events, side events focused on specific subjects.  CHFCA members attended the ShipZero conference where hydrogen was on the agenda and visited Arcola Energy’s showcase of its conversions of a locomotive train and refuse collection vehicle (RCV) conversion to hydrogen fuel cell technology. Both vehicles incorporated fuel cell stacks from Ballard.

Some key outcomes from the conference included:

COP26 Agreement

  • Scrutiny – New rules were agreed for greater scrutiny on emissions reporting. Climate targets should now be easier to compare, allowing countries to assess each other’s progress.
  • Carbon-Trading Rules – governments agreed to revise the Clean Development Mechanism originally adopted in 1997 under the Kyoto Protocol. The trading scheme failed to deliver significant results due to design shortcomings and has been updated: emissions allowances are to decrease every year by two percent, and five percent of proceeds from offsets are to be used to support developing countries in adapting to climate change.
  • Cash for Damage – there is a recognition that countries struck by catastrophic climate events should get financial support. The support mechanism will be agreed upon at COP27 in Egypt next year.
  • The final text includes a global commitment to “phase down” coal power. While falling short of a “phase-out”, this phrase goes further than any previous commitment.
  • China and the US – the two biggest emitters – announced a renewed effort to work together on climate change with a series of technical meetings and workshops planned in 2022.

Breakthrough Agenda:

Affordable renewable and low carbon hydrogen is globally available by 2030 – Over 30 countries including Canada signed the agenda to invite the IEA, working in collaboration with IRENA and the United Nations High Level Climate Action Champions, and other institutions, bodies and industry leaders, to lead an assessment of global progress towards this breakthrough, including reporting on evidence of the following:

  • Production cost, and cost at point of supply, of renewable and low carbon hydrogen (and affordability and accessibility compared to alternatives).
  • Volume of renewable and low carbon hydrogen production globally.
  • Greenhouse gas abatement, across the full value chain, from the production and take-up of renewable and low carbon hydrogen.
  • Investments in the research, development and demonstration and deployment, of renewable and low-carbon hydrogen technologies.

Leading initiatives for international collaboration – As well as working through relevant international institutions and region-specific initiatives, the countries also noted the importance of other global initiatives to making progress towards and coordinating activities towards this breakthrough goal.

Transport related takeaways:

  • Clydebank Declaration for green shipping [Link]

Twenty-two governments vowed to establish ‘green shipping corridors’ – zero-emission shipping routes between two ports. This will involve deploying zero-emission vessel technologies and putting alternative fuel and charging infrastructure in place in ports.

  • Launch of World Bank Global Facility to Decarbonize Transport (GFDT) [Link]

A new World Bank trust fund will be launched to mobilise $200 million over the next 10 years to support road transport decarbonization in emerging markets and developing economies.

  • 38 countries to phase-out internal combustion engines for cars and vans by 2040 [Link]

38 countries have agreed to work together towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero emission by 2040 or earlier, or by no later than 2035 in leading markets.

  • UK pledge to shift to clean trucks by 2040[link]

The UK announced it would phase-out non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035, with all new HGVs sales to be zero emission by 2040.

  • 28 companies pledged to drive growth of hydrogen [Link]

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) announced the pledges of 28 companies to drive growth in the demand for, and supply of, hydrogen. This new initiative called “H2 Zero” gathers companies from mining to energy beside vehicle and equipment manufacturers and financial services.

It seems the conclusion we can draw from COP26 is that industry and governments finally get it: climate change and GHG emissions are the biggest issue facing societies today, and hydrogen and fuel cells are part of the solution, particularly relating to transportation.  That is a very good thing.  No one knows better than CHFCA members that there are many challenges and obstacles to overcome – hydrogen and fuel cells are not a panacea.  Building hydrogen infrastructure, developing products and transitioning sectors will take enormous investment, commitment and technology development, but with the engagement of industry and government, we can make an essential contribution to net-zero 2050.

Sorry dear, talk of hydrogen is not going to stop any time soon.