To intensify global efforts to fight climate change and help the most vulnerable nations, nearly 200 countries at the COP26 climate conference came to an agreement to work together. Michigan Engineering researchers discussed the United States’ role in tackling the challenges and the feasibility of turning CO2 into commercially sustainable products.
Supporting developing nations
“One message I am hearing coming out from COP26 is that developing nations are more challenged in meeting carbon reduction targets,” said Victor Li, a professor of materials science and engineering and director of the Center for Low Carbon Built Environment. “I believe the world must work together to create and help implement technologies that support these ambitions,” he said. “The built environment sector, for example, is ripe to significantly cut carbon footprint, and there are technologies waiting to be adapted and adopted. Apart from providing funds, developed nations can help bridge the gap between technologies and market implementation.
“Technologies can also contribute to adapting to climate change impacts which appear to affect developing nations disproportionately. Appropriate technologies can actually accelerate rather than hinder economic development while meeting climate goals in all nations, but especially in developing nations.”
Li’s is also the E. Benjamin Wylie Collegiate Professor and James R. Rice Distinguished University Professor. His research focuses on enhancing harmony between the built and natural environments.
Environmental and economical sustainability
“Shouldering the climate burden is a call to action for the entire world with no option to fail,” said Volker Sick, a professor of mechanical engineering. “We must and can pay for this by building a new economy that is mindful about the environment and equitably includes everyone.”
Sick is also the director of the Global CO2 Initiative, a $4.5 million effort at U-M to accelerate the process of removing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into useful products, the DTE Energy Professor of Advanced Energy Research and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor. Learn more about the Global CO2 Initiative and how it could lead to making Nike Airs out of air in this podcast:
Working with China on policy
“A critical result of COP26 is the agreement to cooperate between the United States and China on ‘policies to encourage decarbonization and electrification of end-use sectors’ and ‘maximizing the societal benefits of the clean energy transition,’” said Todd Allen, the Glenn F. and Gladys H. Knoll Department Chair of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences. “Cooperation between these two leading nations to accelerate deployment of all of our zero-carbon sources—such as solar, wind and nuclear—is an important step toward a cleaner future.”
Allen is the founding director of Fastest Path to Zero, an interdisciplinary U-M initiative that helps communities meet ambitious climate goals. He has written about the role that nuclear energy can play, including this op-ed in The Hill: “Global climate efforts require nuclear energy—and the US is positioned to lead.”