It will take a while to see the full effects that COP26 will have on this world, because the ambitions going into COP26 were as high or perhaps greater than those of COP21. After all, it took more than a couple of weeks to see the full impact of the Paris Accord upon this world. However, as tens of thousands of young demonstrators in the COP26 Green Zone fought for this world’s climate and their future, COP26 did have one undeniable message for the world: the hydrogen and fuel cell industry is ready for primetime.
At the conference the U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson went so far as to compare one of Enapter’s electrolyzers to a microwave in its simplicity, and even a firm like Riversimple had a presence in Glasgow. Fortescue also ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times that provided another highly visible demonstration of hydrogen’s clear emergence onto the global stage.
As the conference was winding down, Fuel Cells Works sat down with Hyzon’s CEO and Co-Founder Craig Knight who was at the conference to get his reflections on COP26 and hydrogen. Craig stated that hydrogen is being weaved into multiple conversations including higher level ones regarding the climate. He also noted enthusiastically that where heavy-duty transportation is concerned hydrogen is definitely being seen as the predominate solution in that sector as the way to move away from fossil fuels. Hydrogen as the primary solution extends to airplanes, trains, or trucks, because the heavy-duty mobility sector is going to take a lot of innovation and technology both of which hydrogen has in abundance.
However, Craig also reflected on three other aspects of hydrogen at COP26 with the first being young people.
“I was very impressed with the young activism side of the displays in the Green Zone. What I noticed is that it felt like a community fighting against an invasion. The anti-body reaction to the assault on our planet and on our capacity to enjoy the planet is very much oriented towards big industry, big energy, and governments that do not take enough action. I hope that hydrogen factors into that positive mentality because we are proving that you can do very challenging things with hydrogen. I think it is a powerful tool in young people’s bag of fighting the current state of things.”
Another point that Craig touched on during Fuel Cells Works’ interview with him was hydrogen awareness.
“I think the hydrogen industry still has quite a bit of work to do around awareness and understanding the power of hydrogen, which is why governments do not necessarily think it is highly relevant. But I think this is a gradual process to make the impact we need. We really need more visible projects that help hydrogen.”
Later in the conversation Craig mentioned that in the near future Hyzon is going to be helping to drive the importance of hydrogen education even more.
Taken together these are perhaps two characteristics related to hydrogen that need the most attention outside of hydrogen production and dispensing networks. Thanks to Hyzon and other companies we already have the technology to build an effective global hydrogen economy, but a component the hydrogen and fuel cell industry is really lacking is demand from the general public to have politicians pass responsible hydrogen legislation, especially in the U.S. Moreover, globally young people see a future with little hope. It is easy enough to see forests burn around the world like they have this year, and it is also easy for young people in India and other countries to look up at smog filled skies. At the Youth4Climate Pre-COP26 Summit in Milan, Italy Greta Thunberg’s use of “blah, blah, blah” appropriately captured the severe disconnection that young people feel both from governments and large public firms. However, once awareness is also widely developed in young people, then they will have the antidote with which to fight successfully back against the virus of fossil fuels.
The final reflection that Craig voiced during the interview involved hydrogen and decarbonization. In his own words Craig said,
“I think the lobbying around pushing for action on mitigating climate change was a bit more emotive, and I think a lot of the pro-hydrogen discussion was slightly more commercially oriented. But hydrogen is really being underscored as an enabler of decarbonization so there is a bit of a blend in national and global interest with hydrogen proponents.”
Certainly, there were other positive developments in Glasgow like The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance officially being launched with multiple nations joining it. However, the hydrogen and fuel cell industry’s presence at the conference demonstrated the clear arrival of hydrogen, which had previously been missing. Craig’s reflections on COP26 provide the hydrogen and fuel cell industry with necessary areas of focus given the pleas from young people; pleas reinforced when Sir David Attenborough mentioned at the conference on 11.01 “that the people most affected by climate change are no longer some imagined future generation.” As attention now turns to the work ahead in 2022 the lessons and messages of COP26 must also be put to work, so that the Earth’s climate can begin to recover and people, especially young ones, can find hope, again.
Jesse Lyon, Contributor
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