UN launches ‘guiding principles’ for near-zero carbon hydrogen

The United Nations High-Level Champions for Climate Action, Gonzalo Munoz and Nigel Topping, and the global partners of the UN Marrakech Partnership on Thursday published the result of months-long collaboration to strengthen and ground discourse on the role of hydrogen in decarbonisation efforts.

The ‘Guiding Principles for Climate-aligned Hydrogen Deployment’ will assist stakeholders in managing complex issues of path dependency, emissions accounting, and health and socioeconomic equity.

These principles can help to streamline the emerging production and use of low- to zero-carbon hydrogen while increasing the standards of conduct by which firms and governments pursue it.

“It’s high time for a principled approach to the energy transition. Efficiency, reliability, equity, and speed in the deployment of clean energy to meet the climate challenge are imperative,” says Nigel Topping, UN High Level Champion for Global Climate Action.

These principles extend from the Marrakech Partnership’s Climate Action Pathways developed with input from its members, which include leading energy experts and organisations.

These show technologically and economically feasible courses of action, by every actor, to decarbonise every sector before 2050.

The principles mark a new, collaborative approach to managing complexities of transforming energy and industrial sectors while striving for a world with less than 1.5-degrees Celsius warming.

International collaboration between business, policymakers, and civil society can be strengthened through adherence to these principles to deliver UN Breakthrough Outcomes in decarbonising end-use sectors with near-zero carbon energy sources.

These include focusing on the use of near-zero carbon hydrogen where other solutions like efficiency and direct, renewable electrification are unavailable and full lifecycle emissions and pollution accounting and rigorous carbon intensity thresholds.

Saying the ‘guiding principles’ are a valuable playbook to policymakers, Manish Bapna, President and CEO of NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), told IANS: “Hydrogen can play a valuable role in addressing global climate change by helping us tackle the most challenging sectors of our economy.

“But an overeager rush into hydrogen that ignores its serious risks could turn a possible climate solution into another climate problem. We can’t let that happen. The new principles make an important contribution — they articulate critical guardrails to ensure that hydrogen deployment occurs only in a manner that is climate-safe and protects our health and communities. This is a valuable playbook to policymakers.”