Saturday, October 05, 2019

No, Morocco is not a ”climate leader”

Swedish Public Service picked up on the latest report from “Climate Action Tracker” (CAT), a consortium based in Germany which, under the pretence of providing “independent scientific analysis”, tracks government climate action against the Paris Agreement.

Studying the methodology behind these reports, I do not even know where to begin. I have written at length before about the importance of considering the global scalability of different low-carbon energy sources and why for instance a country like Norway, despite having a large share of clean hydroelectric power, cannot be considered a “leader” as its relatively low-emissions depend on the existence of a finite number of fast-flowing and dammable rivers (a resource that most other countries do not have). I have also written before on why sustained global poverty cannot be seen as a realistic (or morally acceptable) solution to climate change. When you put those two things together, and consider the strong anti-nuclear bias of CAT (including its total disinterest in nuclear innovation), it is not difficult understand why they end up with pretty strange results.

In the article, it is suggested that Morocco is one of only two countries, the other being Gambia (!), that is doing enough to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement. Considering that Morocco’s emissions, according to CAT’s own calculations, are expected to rise with nearly 50% over the coming decade, something unusual is clearly going on here. The answer as to why Morocco is seen as role model is apparently its large investments in solar power which, when solely looking at “installed capacity”, is pretty impressive indeed with investments of up to 9 billion USD and 2,000 megawatt of capacity divided between five mega-scale solar projects. However, as should be clear by now, installed capacity does not equate actually produced electricity (due to, among other things, the physical phenomenon commonly referred to as “night”). That is why Morocco is also busy building a number of new thermal coal power plants. Unsurprisingly, such subtleties are lost on our German friends who find Morocco’s expansion of coal power to be “out of step with decreasing technology costs for renewable energy”, a statement that only makes sense when you just consider the marginal cost of providing one additional kWh to an existing electricity grid and not the total system cost of providing reliable electricity throughout the year.

Actually, I do not know why I am writing all this more than to vent some steam. Maybe in the faint hope that Swedish Public Service would do some basic research before passing on these kinds of “scientific reports” as news.

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