Zero emissions not possible with existing technologies says OECD environment director

Achieving zero emissions between 2050 and 2100 will not be possible if existing technologies are relied upon, says Environment Director at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Simon Upton.

Tackling “end of pipe” emissions has been necessary, says Upton, as there are and will be a continued use of power plants. However, he said this strategy posed a risk of getting stuck on a path dependency in which time and energy is wasted making incremental improvements around an embedded incumbent technology.

“To achieve decarbonisation we simply have to get out of fossil fuel. That’s from a climate point of view, an absolutely undeniable fact. We’ve got to get to zero emissions sometime between 2050 and 2100. You don’t get there by trying to keep existing technologies afloat,” he added.

The OECD advises that the journey to zero emissions must focus on taxes and prices “because they are the things influencing both consumers and producers”.

He also highlighted the need to take away fossil fuel subsidies. “Within the OECD countries there is between $55bn-$90bn of subsidy to fossil fuel consumption and production. The amount of tax that European governments forego by offering diesel concessions is, an OECD estimate, $56bn in tax revenue, which is a huge sum of money” says Upton.

According to the OECD, France is losing the highest amount of money, at $8.6bn a year.

Leigh Stringer

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie