Taking fusion to COP26

Story by Stuart White, UKAEA

Fusion energy was on the agenda for the first time ever at the COP26 climate negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland, earlier in November.

 

The process of replicating the power of the Sun here on earth had never been part of the official UN COP discussions before, but this year fusion energy was welcomed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

To show policymakers and delegates how fusion could work as a possible future energy solution, EUROfusion Associate Partner UKAEA co-hosted a series of events together with ITER. With only three weeks to set up the first fusion presence at COP, the teams worked hard to arrange an international panel inviting world leaders to look towards a fusion-powered future.

The main fusion event at COP26 was a panel discussion held in a filled UK Presidential Pavilion in the UN-managed Blue Zone. The panel was chaired by ITER Director General Dr Bernard Bigot and also included UKAEA’s Director of Materials, Amanda Quadling, Professor Dr Sibylle Günter, Director of Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) and Co-chair of EUROfusion's highest decision making body, Dr Aneeqa Khan, a research fellow in fusion from the University of Manchester, and Jane Hotchkiss, President of Energy for the Common Good in the United States.

More than 3,600 either watched the panel discussion ‘live’ online or after the event on the UK Government’s YouTube channel.

Lead organiser and UK host for the fusion-focused event was Celestine Cheong, Head of External Communications at UKAEA: "For fusion energy to have clear representation on closing day at COP26 is testament to it being recognised as a safe, reliable and green energy source to support a burgeoning global population. We will continue to relay the urgency with which we need to adopt fusion, allied to the important role it will play in tackling climate change. Our next steps are to ensure fusion continues to be part of future UN conference discussions.”      

Watch the talk online.

Also organised was a side-event about fusion energy at the University of Edinburgh featuring British astronaut Tim Peake the day before attracted over 2,000 views with 39 countries dialling in.

In addition, UKAEA secured a CEO interview with Ian Chapman in i news, which was published the day before the panel event. He explained the world needs to mount a “Covid-scale” investment if it is to tackle global warming, and that fusion has the potential to replace gas and coal.

In the UN’s Green Zone at the Glasgow Science Centre, two plinths showcasing fusion’s developments were on display during the two-week conference. The Green Zone is where the public, civil society, Indigenous Peoples, youth groups, charities, academia, artists, and businesses from across the UK and all over the world could have their voices heard at COP26, through an extensive programme of events, workshops, talks and exhibitions that promote dialogue, awareness, education and commitments. The plinths were developed together with UK fusion start-ups First Light Fusion and Tokamak Energy.

EUROfusion sends congratulations to everyone who made these events possible, and we look forward to seeing fusion featured in future climate change and sustainable energy events!