How has COP26 changed the outlook for clean hydrogen?

Reuters and Wood collaborate to discuss COP26

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Executive summary

Keeping global temperatures to within 1.5 Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels will require society to change on many levels, including adoption of lower-carbon fuel sources. Hydrogen, as a clean energy source produced with minimal emissions, is emerging as an enabler for decarbonisation as society races to head off the worst effects of climate change.

This paper reviews discussion of hydrogen at COP26 and reflects on next steps as we look towards COP27.

COP26 and the hydrogen economy

The structure of COP26’s official talks allowed companies such as Wood to draw attention to important topics such as hydrogen, where a wide array of stakeholders beyond government have a real desire to drive change and focus on delivery. Topics covered in this space, including methane reporting and the pressure on coal, were among the conference’s most prominent, with hydrogen being discussed as a key solution by actors spanning industry, civil society and the third sector.

Clean hydrogen activation

One of the few hydrogen-specific actions to come out of the conference was in a plan called the Breakthrough Agenda, launched by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the beginning of the talks. Backed by more than 40 world leaders, including those of the United States, India and China, the Breakthrough Agenda called to make affordable renewable and low-carbon hydrogen globally available by 2030.

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“The time for trials is over. The technology is there. We see significant opportunities across the hydrogen value chain, whether that be making it, moving it or using it”

Josh Carmichael, Vice President Hydrogen

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Why business should take the lead?

Although hydrogen was just one part of a broader energy mix discussed by governments at COP26, the side events in Glasgow did succeed in bringing together a diverse cast of stakeholders to focus specifically on the gas. These kinds of meetings could be the motor that drives the industry forward in future.

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Josh Carmichael
Vice President of Hydrogen
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