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| Widening the horizons for climate research resultsGlobal climate change is one of the key concerns of the 21st century, with serious implications for economies, societies and the environment. Understanding and accessing the results of research being carried out in this field is essential if we are to maximise its impact and more accurately define research needs for the future. By creating a database of climate change related research projects funded by the European Union under its Framework Programmes for Research and Development, the ProPaCC project has created a valuable tool for both researchers and policy-makers.
A number of European research organisations, from the Netherlands (ECN), Denmark (RISOE) and Germany (FHG-ISI and IIP) participated in the project, each concentrating on one of the thematic areas identified: climate change and sustainable development; greenhouse gas removal by sinks; policies and measures; flexible mechanisms, and energy-environment modelling in the field of climate change. The team gathered information on some 160 projects from the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) which was compiled in a user-friendly database accessible through the internet. Relevant projects from FP4, selected under the previous ProPaCC project, were also included. “The aim is to try to maximise the impact of these projects by making their results more widely known,” points out Perlwitz. “By making research results more accessible we hope to facilitate the development of new markets for energy-efficient and environment-friendly technologies. We also hope to support the transfer of the knowledge obtained to third countries – particularly in Asia and Eastern Europe.”
Another important aspect of ProPaCC is the provision of a forum for discussion on global climate change issues. Two workshops were organised, one in Karlsruhe in the Spring and one in Bangkok, Thailand in September. The workshops provided researchers, policy makers and industry representatives with an opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue and to identify future research needs. The first addressed issues relating to carbon trading in the context of climate change, whilst the second workshop took a close look at the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in the Kyoto Protocol – a project-based mechanism designed to make it easier and cheaper for industrialised countries to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets they agreed to under the Protocol. The CDM is also mandated to assist developing countries to achieve sustainable development.
One of the prime concerns of the ProPaCC project is to ensure the transfer of knowledge to third countries, particularly those in Asia. Perlwitz points out that the countries in this region play a major role in terms of contribution to worldwide CO2 emissions, and it is therefore essential to transfer EU research knowledge to them. “There is a great deal of interest but also a lot of uncertainty. Concrete examples of projects that have been successfully implemented help to provide positive examples of what can be done.”
Another key goal of the project is to promote the results of EU research and to analyse to what extent these meet the concerns and requirements of stakeholders. In this way, ProPaCC hopes to provide operational information for policy-making. As Perlwitz points out, “by increasing the exchange of information, we also make it possible to more accurately assess future research needs. One of our key achievements has been to develop a synthesis of results and suggestions for key areas of future Community research policy in the field of climate change.”
ProPaCC’s recommendations are organised according to the different categories addressed. One key recommendation concerns the need to more clearly define the concept of sustainable development with regard to climate change. “If we look at climate change within the context of sustainable development,” says Perlwitz, “it appears not as a stand-alone problem with its own associated research and policy agreements but as an integrated problem with solutions that will have an impact on different areas.” It is believed that “packaging” measures to reduce climate change in this way will increase their acceptability and integration into industry practice.
Further recommendations include the need to increase awareness of the impact of energy consumption, not only within industry and among policy-makers but also with regard to the general public who must adapt their patterns of consumption to less energy intensive products. The need to stimulate innovative approaches to the problem rather than simply using established technologies is also highlighted. In this respect, looking at new ways of storing energy to enhance the role of renewable energy sources (such as wind), is particularly important. Other areas examined include the possibilities of extending the switch from coal to gas power plants, and understanding the potential of CO2 sequestration (storage of CO2 in geological reservoirs).
So far, the ProPaCC project has analysed and categorised climate change related projects from the EU’s FP5. Ideally, Perlwitz would like to see this work continued for FP6 which is currently under way. “In order to continue the momentum of the project and the international exchange of knowledge it has promoted, we hope to be able to continue mapping the current ongoing projects. The momentum created by this process is important,” concludes Perlwitz.