Nations urge tripling of nuclear energy to hit net-zero emissions by 2050

DEC 2, 2023 LISTEN

More than 20 nations including France, the United States and the United Arab Emirates on Saturday called for a tripling of nuclear energy to drive down emissions as world leaders gathered for a second day at the UN climate summit in Dubai.

The pledge to triple nuclear capacity by 2050 compared to 2020 is part of efforts to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century.

The announcement was made at Cop28 by US climate envoy John Kerry along with leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo.

While the European Union, the US, the UK, South Korea, Ukraine and summit host the UAE have been rallying support for the move, China and Russia – the main builders of nuclear power plants in the world – were not among the signatories.

Other pledges are expected at the summit, including stepping up the deployment of renewable energy and cutting methane emissions.


The use of nuclear power as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels is highly controversial as environmental groups are concerned about safety and the disposal of nuclear waste.

But more than 20 nations ranging from the US to Ghana, Japan and several European countries said in a declaration that it plays a "key role" in the global goal of achieving carbon neutrality by mid-century.

"We are not making the argument to anybody that this is absolutely going to be a sweeping alternative to every other energy source," Kerry said.

"But we know because the science and the reality of facts and evidence tell us that you can't get to net zero 2050 without some nuclear," he said.

Environmental group said the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 in Japan highlighted the dangers of atomic power.

"While we appreciate that the Biden administration is looking to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels, we don't have time to waste on dangerous distractions like nuclear energy," said its North American director Jeff Ordower.

Methane 'most destructive'

The declaration came as more world leaders took the stage at Cop28 for the second day in a row, though US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are skipping the talks.

"We want to make the energy transition a global success story. It has to be now," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

"We all have to demonstrate the same determination to phase out fossil fuels, beginning with coal," he said.

Nations at the COP28 talks are also expected to adopt a goal of tripling renewable energy and doubling energy efficiency by 2030.

The European Union first appealed for the new targets earlier this year, and the cause has since been taken up by COP28 hosts the UAE, then the G7 and G20 groups of nations.

The discussions about the renewables goal are closely linked to far more difficult negotiations about whether a final COP28 deal will commit nations to phasing down -- or phasing out -- all fossil fuels.

The United States and China, the world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and the UAE will host later Saturday a summit on methane emissions.

Methane, a non-CO2 gas, is the second largest contributor to climate change, accounting for around 16 percent of the warming effect.

China agreed for the first time to include all greenhouse gases in its next national climate pledge for 2035 in an agreement with the US last month.

But Beijing has stopped short of joining a US-backed Global Methane Pledge that has been signed by more than 150 countries and seeks to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030.

Methane "is the most destructive gas", Kerry said.
(with AFP)