The Paris Agreement adopted in late 2015 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Paris) is an important milestone in the journey to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. GE has been an active contributor to the climate policy discussion, and through our Ecomagination business initiative we’ve been developing renewable and lower-emitting technologies for more than a decade. The approach adopted in Paris of operationalizing a global goal through nationally determined contributions holds out the promise of enabling countries to cohesively address climate, reliability, cost competitiveness and energy security.
GE supports policies that promote both lower carbon emissions and sustainable economic growth. Reliable and affordable energy is the critical building block for any modern society, and without it, sustainable economic growth will be impossible. As the UN Secretary-General explained when speaking of his Sustainable Energy for All initiative:
“Without access to modern energy, it is not possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the eight-point global agenda adopted by the United Nations in 2000—whether reducing poverty, improving women’s and children’s health, or broadening the reach of education. Energy facilitates social and economic development, offering opportunity for improved lives and economic progress.”
Energy is essential, but its production and use, particularly from fossil fuels, gives rise to environmental consequences that no responsible nation can or should ignore. The scientific consensus is that fossil fuels used to generate electricity generation and power transportation emit amounts of carbon dioxide that are changing our climate.
GE supports carbon policies that aspire to reduce emissions and encourage businesses to do what they do best: innovate and compete to create and disseminate new technologies and solutions at the lowest net cost. Specifically, GE supports policies that:
- reduce GHG emissions in ways that do not jeopardize energy security;
- encourage early adoption of cleaner technologies & energy efficiency;
- reward R&D, innovation and private risk-taking;
- encourage the free flow of goods and ideas consistent with the WTO;
- reflect national and local circumstances; and
- set realistic timetables for reductions with periodic reviews and updates in contributions as our knowledge of the science evolves and technology improves.
We support the increased use of natural gas for electricity generation and for transportation. Abundant and affordable natural gas from shale and other sources can reduce carbon and other emissions significantly in power generation and can do so cost-effectively, thus assuring economic growth and reliable electricity for consumers. We believe that shale gas in particular can be extracted in an environmentally responsible manner, and we support policies and measures that would minimize risks to ground and surface waters and that would reduce fugitive emissions of methane. Switching from other fuels to natural gas should be encouraged and incentivized in countries, including in the U.S. and China, where new technologies make this fuel abundant and competitively priced.
Other low-carbon energy technologies should also be promoted, as we should avoid reliance on any one fuel for use in power generation. It is important to encourage the use of renewables, especially hydro, wind and solar energy, to reduce carbon emissions and to promote the integration of natural gas technologies with renewables, which would assure the required reliable and flexible generation of electricity. New nuclear technology also remains a viable energy source for a low-carbon and secure-energy future. Coal, however, will continue to be used to generate electricity, especially in some of the most rapidly developing countries. While the continued use of coal for electricity generation is unavoidable, efficiency, carbon capture and sequestration should be encouraged and incentivized in new deployments. And where it can be done economically, older and less efficient coal units should be retired.
Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement will require significant investment in new and upgraded technologies. As a company that operates in all aspects of the energy business, GE will continue to work with countries as they build out their climate strategies. Policies to help reduce carbon emissions are essential to drive technology development and deployment. Fairness to consumers, environmental integrity, cost-effectiveness, sound science and technology neutrality should be the guiding principles for arriving at any national strategy.