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Climate Goal Needs "More Than Technology": Shell

Date: 23-Nov-09
Country: UK
Author: Gerard Wynn

LONDON - Action to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius is beyond simply inventing new, low-carbon technologies and depends on wider changes to behavior and the way communities are built, said a Royal Dutch Shell executive.

Oil major Shell was among nine firms which signed on Friday a letter addressed to head of the European Union's executive Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, calling for a "strong deal" on climate at a global U.N. meeting next month in Copenhagen.

Climate scientists say that the world must limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid dangerous climate change. "I think that (it) is extremely demanding," said Graeme Sweeney, Shell's executive vice-president of future fuels and CO2, of that target.

"It is more than the (energy) supply-side, more than the technology, it will require a clear approach to the demand-side including behavior," he told Reuters on Friday.

"What we understand is that the 2 degrees rise is associated with a 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent ... and that should guide the global agreements as they are set in place," he said referring to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which would result in about 2 degrees warming.

"It will require behavioral change to be achieved, change as individuals and collectively. That doesn't mean we don't have to do all the supply-side things as well."

Behavior change could include individuals retro-fitting their own homes with efficiency upgrades and installation of low-carbon appliances, and the re-design of communities to allow more thrifty use of energy -- for example to encourage cycling, public transport or provide local generation of energy from waste.

The world will have to limit greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation as well as from burning fossil fuels, he added.

Shell is working on producing a new generation of low-carbon transport fuels from non-food crops such as wood waste. One criticism of biofuels now, for example when produced from corn, is that they compete with food crops and so stoke food prices and perhaps spur deforestation.

Sweeney said he disagreed with recent research which suggested that second generation biofuels would also compete with cropland and so spur deforestation.

Shell is also funding technologies which might be able to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, in particular an approach which involves quarrying minerals that when exposed to the air can absorb CO2 and then be used as a building material.

"We're working on mineralization, that's the conversion of the captured CO2 into what would then effectively become building materials. We think that there's a considerable scope in that and we continue to work on it."

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)

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