Green hydrogen: A catalyst for global decarbonization post-COP

The tech is crucial to the energy transition — and to enabling the hard-to-abate sectors to prioritize sustainable solutions.

December 19, 2023
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An electrolyzer

Photo credit: Fabian Strauch / picture alliance via Getty Images

An electrolyzer

Photo credit: Fabian Strauch / picture alliance via Getty Images

In the wake of COP28, green hydrogen has emerged as a leading opportunity and unifying force.

The climate conference has set an unequivocal role for green hydrogen to play in the future of global decarbonization: facilitate the phasedown and substitution of fossil fuels by producing sustainable fuel using increased renewable energy capacity.

While the Global Stocktake may not be as bold as many hoped, all of the key policy signals to enable the rapid scaling of global hydrogen production are present. The final COP28 agreement recognizes the need for accelerated climate action and encourages the phase-down and transition away from fossil fuels using, among other things, low-carbon hydrogen production. And, significantly, it pushes for the tripling of renewable energy capacity by 2030 — a powerful, collective commitment that bodes well for the green hydrogen sector.

Green hydrogen electrolyzers need only two things to produce sustainable fuel: electricity and water. Substantial growth in renewable energy capacity is critical to unlocking the true potential of green hydrogen for decarbonization.

More climate ambition, more demand for hydrogen

At the very least, the Global Stocktake provided important policy signals for our industry, specifically by calling for the transition away from fossil fuels to achieve net zero by 2050. 

Green hydrogen has many of the same properties as the fossil fuels that heavy industry currently relies on, and therefore has the unique ability to transition carbon-intensive industries from gas and coal. It is one of the only ways to quickly and efficiently offer a substitute for fossil fuels while keeping industry on-track.

The greater the decarbonization ambition, the greater the role that green hydrogen can play. COP’s endorsement of low-carbon hydrogen production sets the stage for our industry to continue scaling at a rapid pace around the world.

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New standards

The announcement of new ISO standards for hydrogen technologies was another significant output of COP. These new standards give the nascent industry additional structure and help create a bedrock of trust and consensus to foster collaboration among green hydrogen companies, their customers, and national governments. 

In an era where technological development is accelerating, these standards — which specify how to determine the carbon footprint of a hydrogen product — have the potential to become guiding principles to help ensure that hydrogen technologies reach their decarbonization potential and comply with safety, environmental, and social requirements. The announcement sets the foundation for reliability and scalability in the green hydrogen value chain, and a more robust and cooperative future.

International collaboration 

This year’s COP also witnessed a notable uptick in international collaboration and capacity building, which will be crucial to help ensure the equitable rollout of clean technologies like green hydrogen worldwide. 

One example is the strategic collaboration announced between Ohmium, Emirates Steel, and Khalifa University, uniting the private sector and academia towards advancing the low-carbon transformation of the United Arab Emirates green steel sector. There is huge potential for such cross-sectoral partnerships to drive technological innovation and sustainable development.

The post-COP path

While the COP agreement delivered crucial elements for the growth of green hydrogen, work remains to be done. Specifically, financing remains a real challenge. Addressing the gap in climate financing — especially in the short-term — is pivotal for ensuring the continued growth of the green hydrogen industry and its essential role in global decarbonization efforts. 

Ultimately, COP28 underscored the imperative to make green hydrogen a reality. The event highlighted the indispensable role the hydrogen economy will play in shaping a sustainable future. Innovative green hydrogen technologies, like PEM electrolyzers, are crucial to supporting this transition away from fossil fuels and enabling the hard-to-abate sectors to prioritize green solutions. 

It’s time to seize the momentum generated at COP and work together to make green hydrogen an integral part of a more sustainable future. 

Arne Ballantine is the CEO of Ohmium, a green hydrogen company. The opinions represented in this contributed article are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the views of Latitude Media or any of its staff.

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