Co-creating with stakeholders: a series of PARIS REINFORCE national workshops for transformative climate action
Since May 2022, PARIS REINFORCE has been hosting physical and online stakeholder workshops in several countries, to discuss and refine the project’s modelling results on low-carbon pathways of targeted economic and/or industrial sectors. In doing so, we managed to co-define bottlenecks hampering the examined decarbonisation pathways and to co-create elements of transformative policy mixes that can overcome these bottlenecks.
Our first two virtual stops, in this series of workshops, were Brazil (May 2) and Canada (May 9). The two online workshops served to validate our whole energy system model results and refine our assumptions in the light of emerging challenges, and to co-create transport-sector transformative policy guardrails with stakeholders.
In Brazil, participants focused on social equity and insufficiency of funds, pointing out that e-mobility efforts should target collective, public use, and accordingly infrastructure development, rather than individual ownership. A second set of discussed bottlenecks revolved around resistance of powerful actors and influence of lobbies, which are argued to have a tighter grip on legislation and election campaigns than science. From a societal perspective, stakeholders argued that the wealthiest parts of the Brazilian population display high-level, abstract awareness of sustainability targets but are indifferent to sustainable lifestyle choices. Important, albeit intertwined, elements of transformative policy included awareness raising, target-oriented coordination of efforts in dedicated spaces for dialogue, science-based regulation, and open markets for renewables. More information on the Brazil workshop can be found here.
Canadian stakeholders, on the other hand, highlighted the substantial uncertainties around CCS (costs, potential, regulation, geography of capture and storage, ties with enhanced oil recovery and tax rebates for oil industry), despite high hopes among many actors in Canada. A clear taxonomy and roadmap generating trust were deemed critical for effective decarbonisation and guidance of capital allocation, further complemented by a strong regulatory framework including clear property rights. On freight transport, stakeholders pointed to the lack of roadmaps for modal shifts and the limited analysis of alternative technologies for heavy-duty and rail transport. Another takeaway was that current municipal plans are not well-aligned with national climate goals, with urban planning inconducive to lower/decarbonise transport activity. Here, stakeholders stressed the importance of longer-term planning towards innovation and exnovation, including targeted support to transitioning of the workforce from the oil and gas sector within affected regions, intergovernmental coordination of efforts, tax schemes to govern the use of roads, multi-level governance, and scientific bridges to advocacy and socio-technical analysis communities. More information on the Canada workshop can be found here.
After these two online workshops, we then held three physical stakeholder workshops, in Athens (June 30), Venice (July 5), and Berlin (July 8).
In an event co-hosted with the H2020 SENTINEL project (link) on the decarbonisation of the Greek power sector, the first stakeholder group focused on bottlenecks associated with local-level opposition to wind power expansion, from legitimate concerns about ecosystem impacts to overgeneralisation and demonisation of clean energy projects. Targeted information, new business models for renewables, energy communities and project co-ownership, evidence-based decision-making, advanced spatial planning, and proper environmental impact assessments for Natura2000 area protection and sustainable forest management are among the highest mentioned solutions. Storage maturity-related obstacles were also discussed, with integrated regional smart grid solutions, R&D funding, and integration with demand solutions being promoted as possible ways forward. A second group discussed the necessary improvements to the electricity grid, stressing limited digitalisation and rollout of smart meters, weak market-based incentives for self-generation, unclear direction for TSO investments today in the power grid due to high uncertainties, mainland-island grid interconnection delays, and access to finance, for which the role of the public sector in de-risking and bringing in private finance was deemed vital. In the light of today’s energy decision-making in response to the Ukraine conflict, this group also vividly discussed the possible lock-ins to new LNG infrastructure investments and imports, slowing down green investments. For a full summary of the Greece workshop, please read here.
In Venice, our workshop focused on challenges and progress towards SDG7 in Italy, in the light of today’s energy crisis. In the first session, stakeholders discussed the interplay between climate change mitigation and broader sustainability from both an Italian and an EU perspective, first highlighting domestic hurdles such as poverty, agriculture-related pollution, limited diffusion of renewables, unemployment, and net income equality. They also suggested that Italy has been displaying negative trends across most social and human development SDGs, before highlighting the lack of will from political agencies to implement existing measures, the limited national stakeholder ownership of EU-level decisions, and the need to restructure schemes to support energy efficiency. The second session offered a deep dive into the role of key energy technologies, including CCS, LNG, and various shades of hydrogen. Although CCS is expected to take off post-2030 and make a big chunk of domestic emissions cuts in 2050, it was stressed that Italian policymakers may not be enthusiastic over this technology; and, although heavy LNG investments were widely seen as unfavourable, stakeholders also agreed on the need for diversification of fossil gas imports as total gas phase-out by 2050 was contested. There was also consensus on the potential of small-scale (rooftop) solar installations, and the big role offshore wind can play, as well as on the possible trade-offs emerging between security of supply and emissions reductions in the near-term. The final session oriented on energy poverty, the need to streamline how it is defined and measured, as well as the failure of policies to target and support genuinely energy-poor and vulnerable households. For a full summary of the Italy workshop, please read here.
Stakeholders from industry, academia, and civil society in Berlin delved into bottlenecks to decarbonising German energy-intensive industries, in particular iron and steel, cement, and chemicals. From an infrastructure perspective, lack of resources (e.g., rare earths) and capacities to build electrolysers for green hydrogen, uncertain public acceptance, low levels of harmonisation among renewable energy generation and hydrogen production, and risks of locking into blue hydrogen were highlighted as possible barriers. In turn, stakeholders mentioned a diversity of solutions, including a hydrogen backbone network, support schemes for infrastructure, a guiding vision for CO2 circular flows and carbon management, and a clear political agenda for full decarbonisation along with early development of the required skills and competences. From a demand perspective, participants stressed market-side issues, such as EU-ETS failure to create incentives for exploring low-carbon alternatives (new binders, recycling solutions, etc.) in sectors like cement, as well as that high gas prices could shift cement production elsewhere and that reforming norms and standards to accommodate new construction materials are necessary for market pull towards zero-carbon technologies. Discussed measures to overcome the bottlenecks included green public procurement, reduction in material consumption through innovative building, electrification of construction sites, fostering of exchange of pioneering construction projects, strategies for upscaling from local projects, information campaigns for builders and architects and corporate sustainability departments, and R&I in support to low-carbon solutions. For the steel sector, part of the discussion focused on ways to strengthen the secondary steel route in Germany, which sees much of its steel being exported. For a full summary of the Germany workshop, please read here.
A final national stakeholder workshop, as part of this series of events, is expected to take place in London, UK, on October 7.