Report drives home need for CCS in climate change response

A report commissioned by the Melbourne-based Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute and authored by experts at the University College London has found that carbon capture and storage (CCS) should be seen as a critically important part of any strategy for limiting temperature rise to 2°C, and even more so for limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C.

CCS refers to a set of technologies that may offer the potential for large-scale removal of CO2 emissions from a range of processes – potentially including the generation of electricity and heat, industrial processes, and the production of hydrogen and synthetic fuels.

The report, The role of CCS in meeting climate policy targets, concludes that the risks of CCS techologies not being available as part of a portfolio of mitigation options to address climate policy targets are greater than the risks associated with attempting to develop them.

It comes after a major UK government investigation into CCS last year received advice in the Oxborough Report, which highlighted "the absolutely central role which CCS has to play across the UK economy if we are to deliver the emissions reductions to which we are committed at the lowest possible cost to the UK consumer and taxpayer."

Speaking at the launch of the UCL report at London’s Royal Society, a group of eminent speakers including UK Committee on Climate Change Chairman, Lord Deben, Shell Chief Climate Change Adviser, David Hone, and Global CCS Institute CEO, Brad Page, reiterated the need for CCS to be part of a portfolio of climate mitigation options which need to be combined to achieve Paris climate change targets.

“CCS must be considered part of any strategy to limit temperatures to 2 degrees or less,” said Page, who leads the world authority on CCS.

“A body of evidence by expert climate change bodies including the IPCC and IEA supports the view that CCS must be part of a portfolio of climate change mitigation technologies. It is particularly crucial as a clean mitigation technology which can decarbonise industry, including the steel, cement, fertilizer and petrochemical sectors.”

Report co-author, Professor Paul Ekins said the report found that pursuing CCS requires a whole-chain, innovation systems approach, including coordination of actors and infrastructure, and attention to legislative and regulatory frameworks.

“Of course, there will be a need for technology `push’ policies such as support for research and development, and market `pull’ policies such as price support and carbon taxes.

“However, it’s also important to recall that comparable large-scale technological systems and infrastructures have historically benefitted from some kind of whole-chain coordination and support, with governments playing key enabling roles. We do not believe that CCS will succeed without similar whole-chain coordination and support.”

UCL co-author, Dr Nick Hughes said report findings indicated that the non-availability of CCS appears to make climate mitigation scenarios “at best much higher cost, and at worst infeasible”.

“Thus, we find that not having CCS available will pose a significant risk to the achievability of the Paris targets. We find this is a convincing reason for putting in place clear and long-term measures to support the development of CCS systems.”

Panellist and IEA analyst, Samantha McCulloch, said CCS technologies offer a solution to some of the most vexing climate challenges the world faces, and the need to apply it more comprehensively is critical and urgent.

“Latest IEA analysis confirms that CCS would contribute 14 per cent of the CO2 emissions reductions needed in a 2-degree scenario. The case for CCS is compelling but an urgent boost in investment will be needed to secure these future emissions reductions.”

There are currently 17 large-scale CCS facilities in operation around the world, with four more coming on stream within the next 12-18 months.

The full report is available here.

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