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Vattenfall Proposes Global 100-Year Climate Stabilization Framework

by Jack Rosebro

Cover of Vattenfall’s “Curbing Climate Change” proposal.

Speaking in Stockholm today at “Pathways to Sustainable European Energy Systems,” the inaugural project conference of the Alliance for Global Sustainability, Vattenfall CEO Lars Josefsson proposed a worldwide, adaptive carbon reduction burden-sharing framework to be implemented over the next 100 years, as part of a path towards a low carbon emitting society.

The Swedish energy company estimates that the framework has a 50-50 chance of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 levels at 550 ppm, accompanied by an estimated average global temperature increase of 2º C. Josefsson bluntly stated that “in the collective world, we have totally underestimated the problem” of climate change.

Most people spend their time telling us that there is a problem,” he said. “We need to spend more time solving the problem.” Vattenfall chose to develop and present this framework because, in Josefsson’s words, “we couldn’t find anyone else [in the business community] interested in this work.” Political solutions to long-term problems such as climate change are not practical, he remarked, because “the four-year perspective is a political reality.

He acknowledged, however, that this own industry also presents obstacles to societal transformation. “The energy system has a great deal of inertia,” Josefsson admitted, “and it will be difficult to change the picture. We speak of a very, very large system.

A discussion of the framework, entitled Curbing Climate Change can be downloaded from Vattenfall’s website.

The guiding principles of Vattenfall’s proposed global GHG allocation and reduction framework are as follows:

  • All countries should participate: participation is a part of being a member of the global community.

  • No poor country shall be denied its right to economic development.

  • No extra cost burden on the poorest.

  • No rich country shall have to go through disruptive change.

  • Richer countries pull a larger weight: emission caps do not apply to countries until they have reached a certain economic level; poorer countries with caps get higher emissions allocations compared to richer countries

  • There must be a level playing field; the proposed framework shall not change relative competitiveness.

  • The system shall be robust; as new knowledge is accumulated, parameters may change, but not the principles underlying the system.

  • Emission caps should be binding.

  • Emission allowances are allocated to each country in relation to its share of gross global product (i.e. gross GDP) divided by population.

  • The final allocation to individual companies or facilities will be made at the national level.

  • The mechanism should be able to achieve wide acceptance as being fair and balanced.

Description of the GDP-based allocation mechanism. Click to enlarge.

The determination of each country’s permitted CO2 emissions level would be performed in three steps:

First, a global target GHG production cap would be set in order to reach a specific carbon dioxide concentration level by year 2100. A 550 ppm CO2-equivalent target is proposed, but if that goal proves too lax or too harsh, the same principles can be used for other target levels.

Second, the emissions of developing countries would be deducted from this cap until those countries reached a certain level of economic development, as measured in terms of their GDP per capita. However, if all countries are committed from the start, developing countries will then be aware that once a certain economic level is reached, activities in their country will also face restrictions.

Third, the remaining allowed emission levels would be divided between all countries facing restrictions in a given year, in proportion to their share of total global GDP. Wealthier countries would be allocated less GHG production per person. Josefsson commented that “it is reasonable to require that the richer you are, the more efficient you should be.

He pointed out, however, that the implementation of burden-sharing could be tricky. Although individual countries would be free to decide how they want to divide reductions among industry, “there should be no horse-trading.

It is anticipated that the time between initial adoption of the framework and 2030 would serve as a “linking-in” period. “The pain will be bearable” during the adaption process, remarked Josefsson. “Keep it simple. Take the heat, but don’t give up on your principles.

According to the proposed 100-year framework, GHG allocations would be calculated every five years until 2100, beginning in 2015.

Josefsson said that Vattenfall will ask global energy and transport companies to sign on to the framework, explaining that “problems that damage the global economy will also damage the global corporations.

Vattenfall Group, which supplies heat and power to Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany, is the fifth largest generator of electricity as well as the largest generator of heat in the European Union.

Wholly owned by the Swedish state, Vattenfall (Swedish for waterfall) has evolved from a hydropower-dominant public utility into a competitive Northern European energy group. The energy group’s portfolio is relatively diversified, ranging from ninety biofuel-fired plants in Scandinavia and Germany to ten nuclear reactors in Sweden.

Vattenfall’s CCS pilot plant, under construction at Schwarze Pumpe, Germany. Click to enlarge.

For example, Vattenfall is building a €50-million, 30 MW oxyfuel pilot power plant with CCSneara itsexistingg 1,600MW lignite-fired power plant in Schwarze Pumpe, Germany. Operation at the pilot plant is scheduled to start mid 2008 and the plant is expected to be in operation for at least 10 years.

The CCS pilot plant will produce about 60,000 tonnes of CO2per year at full load—about 0.6% of the volume of the larger Schwarze Pumpe power plant (10 million tonnes CO2 annually.

According to Vattenfall, oxyfuel combustion—in which the coal is burned in a mixture of nearly pure oxygen and recycled flue gases rather than in air—is the technology that seems to have the best potential for commercial use in the kind of large lignite-fired power plants that Vattenfall operates.

Schwarze Pumpe CCS pilot plant. Click to enlarge.

The oxyfuel combustion produces a nitrogen free flue gas with high concentration of carbon dioxide and water vapor as its main components, making it easier to further concentrate the flue gas to an almost pure stream of carbon dioxide.

After combustion, the flue gas is cleaned and then cooled. The resulting carbon dioxide can be compressed, dried and further purified before transportation to a storage site.

Other options Vattenfall considered were pre-combustion capture (gasification to produce a syngas from which the CO2 is separated) and post-combustion (in which flue gases pass through the absorption column where the solvent reacts with the carbon dioxide, chemically binding it and removing it from the gas stream).

Vattenfall is also planning a number of wind-power projects that would more than double Scandinavia’s wind-sourced power output. A total of more than 500 wind turbines in Sweden and Denmark now generate about 1.3 TWh of electrical energy annually.

As Vattenfall has relatively clean hydro, nuclear, and wind facilities in Scandinavia, the dominant sources of its CO2 emissions are fossil fuel-burning power plants in Germany and Poland. However, carbon dioxide emissions from Vattenfall’s operations, as measured in grams/kWh, have decreased since 1990 by 36% within electricity generation and 29% within heat production.

The Alliance for Global Sustainability is a co-operative network of four universities: Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden; Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich; and the University of Tokyo.

Created in 1997, the AGS is composed of university scientists, engineers, and social scientists. Global corporations such as Ford and Dupont, as well as Vattenfall, support AGS research.




This company is putting its neck on the chopping block. On the one hand they are saying CO2 cuts are essential and on the other their gamble on CCS (the Schwarze Pumpe plant) could backfire. Luckily they have nonfossil resources. I think they should bring the judgement on CCS forward to about year 2010.

Rafael Seidl

"All countries should participate: participation is a part of being a member of the global community."

Pray tell, how would we exclude the US, Australia, Canada etc. from the global community? The only available enforcement mechanisms for CO2 mitigation are the power of persuasion and, leading by example to shame their electorates into compliance. This twin-pronged approach has been borne fruit in some US states but not yet at the federal level.

China's regional governments will continue to pay lip service to all forms of environmental protection if they interfere with the economic growth considered essential for the Communist party to maintain its hold on power. Heck, even public health comes a distant second.

Places like Iran and North Korea will do the exact opposite of whatever you demand, cutting off their nose to spite their face. Bringing them back into the fold will require a US president who respects the concept of other nations' sovereignty.

Vattenfall's framework articulates a well-intentioned ideal. Unfortunately, it is also fairly unrealistic.


The second half of the article seems more grounded. The economics of coal evidently remain hard to beat, and not just for developing countries. Therefore, it does make sense to evaluate carbon sequestration concepts, provided there is parallel development of renewable alternatives and, of energy-efficient technology in all sectors of the economy. We don't really have any time to lose wrt global warming, so we need a portfolio of energy options.

Vattenfall appears well-positioned to transform itself into a provider of sustainable electricity over the coming decade or two.

Bike Commuter Dude

The Iranians are trying (despite growing U.S. and Isreali objections) to put a nuclear generator online. That would mean they would greatly reduce the amount of CO2 they emit into the atmosphere. So, yes, they may be doing exactly the opposite of what we (Americans?) want, but they are still doing the right thing for the environment and their own economy.

North Korea and it's own dictatorial Bush-esque actions are another kettle of fish entirely... What are we learning childen? That's right, autonomy in the face of international objection nets disaster. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from Kim Yung Il?

Rafael Seidl

Bike Commuter Dude -

the official reason Iran's government gives for its "civilian" nuclear program is that it wants to conserve its natural gas for export. Never mind that there is no pipeline, LNG or GTL facility to deliver it to faraway markets. Indeed, vast amounts of gas are still flared off there:


Never mind also that no-one is going to build any natural gas logistics infrastructure as long as there are question marks over the purpose of Iran's nuclear program. Expect the US to continue to block plans for a pipeline to Pakistan and India:


Talk of the Nabucco pipeline to Central Europe is also just that, so far:


And never mind that Iran has been redued to importing much of its gasoline from India, only to sell it at massively subsidized prices to placate the impoverished populace. Btw, diesel vehicles are prohibited and CNG is unheard of (unlike in neighboring Pakistan).


The notion that the mullahs are pursuing nuclear power in order to fight global warming, or even just to grow their economy, is totally bizarre.

separately, comparing Kim Jong Il's personal fiefdom of North Korea to Bush and the US is out of line. Think what you will of these leaders and their policies but no-one in Pyongyang is allowed to read or post comments to a web blog. You have no idea how good you have it.


"Richer countries pull a larger weight: emission caps do not apply to countries until they have reached a certain economic level; poorer countries with caps get higher emissions allocations compared to richer countries."

This appears to follow the Kyoto ideas significantly. Trouble is without emphasis on new technology in developing countries, why should they adopt good stewardship?

If anything, developing countries need appropriate financial assistance to build green economies. Growing feedstocks,organics, building co-generated power with H2 byproducts, assembling electric vehicles etc. The advantage of a nation without old infrastructure is the opportunity to adopt the most beneficial infrastructure with no resistence from establishment.

Both Iran and North Korea are convenient whipping boys for struggling neocons. The Korean nuke "test" had zero radiation signature suggesting the only thing blowing up is a preponderance of imagination.


Your personality continue to puzzle me. Your second post, probably influenced by efforts you spent on notorious research and your scientific integrity, is brilliantly comprehensive. Yet in the first post (casually paying homage to politically correct barking) you call for “respect to the concept of other nations sovereignty” applied to aggressive tyranny regimes of Iran and N. Korea, confronted by current American President. Strange to hear this kind of slogans from citizen of country suffered from Nazi anshluss. In previous post you also refer to Iranian nuclear program as “allegedly” military.

No need to answer me. Just read attentively before posting your other vice brilliant comments on this US-based international web-site.

Rafael Seidl

Andrey -

I don't give a damn about political correctness. I did not, in fact, refer to Iran's nuclear program as "allegedly" military in my first post. Please don't put words in my mouth.

Nor is respect for sovereignty an empty slogan. It means that the people of a country have the inalienable right to determine their government. If they are denied that right, they need to fight for it themselves - as many brave people have done before them. It's simply not the responsibility of other nations to do the job for them, except in self-defense when that government physically attacks them (or backs terrorists that do).

Iran and North Korea are both run by extremely repressive government whose actions threaten regional stability. We cannot afford to wear rose-tinted glasses about the motives for their statements and actions, hence my sharp rebuke to Bike Commuter Dude.

However, that does not justify pre-emptive warfare aimed at overthrowing these regime from without. Iran and North Korea understandably do not trust Pres. Bush when he says he's seeking a diplomatic solution in their cases - US actions in Iraq simply speak louder than words. Action begets reaction. IMHO, the enormous damage to international relations that Bush has wrought cannot be mended until a new person enters the White House.

This is a great pity, because it distracts attention away from other critical issues we should be addressing collectively, such as global warming.


“the people of a country have inalienable right to determine their government. … It simply not the responsibility of other nations to do the job for them, except in self-defense when that government physically attacks them (or back terrorists that do).

“However that does not justify pre-emptive warfare aimed to overthrowing this regime.”

You continue to contradict yourself. But I glad that you have same position as I am on Iran and N.Korea treat.


Very interesting article!

I share the opinion that war at sea and, by expanding, the ocean and the ocean activity, have a great impact on the way the climate changes. In order to determine steps in stabilizing the climate, I guess we must first understand how we got in this situation in the first place. I have found an interesting, to say the least, thesis on the matter: http://www.1ocean-1climate.com, where A. Bernaerts has a synthesis of his booklet on Naval War changes Climate.

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