Holocene Project | Hans-Josef Fell talks at SNEC 2024 in China

The Holocene Project: exploring pathways to stopping emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere to cool the Earth

Hans-Josef Fell speaking at SNEC 2024 in China

June 2024


Find the slides here.

Find the Holocene Project here.


Distinguished guests and friends,

It is a great pleasure to accept your invitation and an immense honor to speak with you today. It brings me immense joy to witness the growth of clean technology here in China. When we in Germany adopted the Renewable Energy Act in the German Parliament in 2000, we aimed to create a foundation for a new economy and electric industry based on renewable energy. We took on significant responsibilities and hoped to contribute meaningfully to the global efforts.

Initially, Germany led the world in renewable energies, particularly in solar, wind, and biogas. However, today, China has taken the lead, and I am profoundly grateful for China’s outstanding development in the renewable industry. It is inspiring to see the advancements here.

Back in 2000, when Germany’s Parliament passed the Renewable Energy Act, we were already aware of the global challenges we faced, such as global warming. We recognized the urgent need for new zero-emission technologies, not just to reduce emissions. Unfortunately, the world did not follow suit quickly enough, and we now witness numerous climate disasters: heatwaves, floods, storms, wildfires, rising sea levels, droughts, hunger, refugees, wars, and more. We must act swiftly to address these issues.

We also foresaw conflicts and wars over resources, particularly oil. Where there is oil, conflicts often follow. Our vision was to create peace through 100% renewable energy, which can lead to a more peaceful world. Additionally, we recognized the severe pollution of our air, water, and soil, which makes people ill. Clean technology brings health benefits to the world, making 100% renewable energy crucial for addressing these challenges.

Focusing specifically on climate issues, we have seen the alarming increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Before industrialization, the level was 280 parts per million (ppm). The planetary boundary for a secure life is 350 ppm, which we exceeded in 1990. Now, we have reached 420 ppm, and global temperatures continue to rise rapidly. Last year, we experienced 1.5°C of global warming, and the Copernicus Research Center in Europe recently reported that the last 12 months saw 1.63°C of warming. The acceleration of global temperature rise is alarming.

Thus, we must set a new target for climate protection: reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide to below 350 ppm. This requires stopping all emissions and removing hundreds of gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere to cool the Earth. We aim to launch a new research project, the Holocene Project, to explore pathways to achieve this target. This includes stopping all emissions in the energy sector, creating a circular economy without emissions or waste, and promoting green growth to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

To succeed, we need research funding and collaboration. If you are interested in joining this policy project, please let me know. Achieving 100% renewables is no longer a question of economics or technology but of political will. I see strong political will in China, evidenced by its high growth rates in renewable investments. However, the rest of the world must follow.

Last year, in 2022, Bloomberg reported that most investments in clean technology were directed towards renewable energies and electric transportation. Nuclear power plays a minimal role due to its high cost and slow implementation. Renewable energy, particularly solar power, is growing rapidly, with significant installations in China.

We must continue to fight for advancements in storage technologies, such as batteries, to balance the fluctuations in renewable energy production and to power clean vehicles. The economic advantages of renewable energy are clear, as it is cheaper than fossil fuels when considering the costs of carbon capture and storage.

At the SNIEC conference last year, I saw promising figures indicating that China’s growth in clean technology is doubling every two years. This tremendous growth rate can lead to 100% renewables within a decade, which is essential for achieving our climate goals. By canceling coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power, and focusing on renewables, we can boost the economy and protect the environment.

China has set an example with projects like the massive solar farms in Inner Mongolia and Shangu Province. These projects not only provide clean electricity but also create additional benefits, such as shading desert areas to promote plant growth and cooling water to improve shrimp and fish farming.

China is now the leading nation in clean technology, and you have the potential to become a 100% renewable country within a decade. Achieving climate neutrality by 2060 is commendable, but we need to act faster to prevent further climate disasters. Together with Europe and other nations, we can influence global climate conferences and set a new target: reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 ppm to protect the climate and stabilize global temperatures.

Thank you very much for your attention.