Note: This letter was sent shortly after the annoucement of exhibits selected for the 'Green Zone' public exhibition, for which there were no nuclear exhibits selected. At the COP26 venue itself there was good representation of nuclear energy, with a number of nuclear sidebar presentations hosted by the UNFCCC, the IAEA and country pavilions. 

A letter sent to Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, President, COP26 from Dr Sama Bilbao y León, Director General, World Nuclear Association

London, 16 August 2021

We are deeply concerned about the news that every application on nuclear energy for the Green Zone at the upcoming COP26 conference has been rejected. We hope this is not indicative of how nuclear will be treated at COP26 as a whole. We would therefore urge you and the other organizers of COP26 to treat nuclear energy fairly and to ensure that it is well represented alongside other low carbon energy sources, in line with the recommendations made by numerous expert organisations.

The flagship report published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe last Thursday reinforced the pivotal role that nuclear energy can play in effectively combatting climate change, whilst also building a more resilient society. This is not an isolated view; expert organisations from across the world, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Energy Agency, the OECD-Nuclear Energy Agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the MIT Energy Initiative have all concluded that nuclear energy is a crucial component in any realistic transition to a low-carbon future that is also cost-efficient. Indeed, the IPCC’s “middle-of-the-road” scenario - which assumes that social, economic, and technological trends would follow current patterns of development and no enforced changes in diet or travel habits – sees the demand for nuclear energy increase six times by 2050.

With only months to go before COP26 commences, last week’s publication from the IPCC makes for sobering reading. The message from the scientific community is loud and clear: we need a dramatic step change to avert the very real harms of climate change. The enormity and the urgency of the challenge demand that we make the best use of all the tools at our disposal. As the largest single source of low-carbon electricity in developed nations, nuclear energy stands ready to continue to decarbonize the world’s economy, alongside all other low carbon technologies.

In our efforts to combat climate change, we have a golden opportunity to at the same time build societies that are truly sustainable, clean, and equitable. With the vast majority of the global population yet to reach the quality of life we enjoy in the UK, we need to find ways to meet the expected substantial increase in energy demand in ways that do not exacerbate carbon- or air pollution emissions, thus unlocking the immense human potential that exists in all corners of the world. With its unique combination of features – being affordable, 24/7, reliable, and resilient – and its low-carbon credentials, nuclear energy represents an essential component of any just clean energy transition.

COP26 provides a unique chance to redefine the future of humanity, and if we come together as one, we can accelerate global action to address climate change. This will, however, require a significant increase in ambition and political courage. The world is looking for thought leadership from the United Kingdom this November. World Nuclear Association has proudly represented the global nuclear industry in the UN Climate Change conferences since COP5, and we look forward to continuing to make the case for nuclear power as a key technology for building a cleaner and brighter future in Glasgow.

Yours sincerely

Dr Sama Bilbao y León