Parliament’s climate resolution is misguided over CCS

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

The Sleipner gas platform on the Norwegian continental shelf. Millions of tonnes of CO2 have been stored safely there since 1996. [Equinor / Harald Pettersen]

A proposal to disregard CO2 capture and underground storage is doing the rounds in Strasbourg ahead of a Plenary vote on a COP24 Resolution on Thursday (25 October). The proposal is anti-science and anti-technology and must be rejected, writes Frederic Hauge.

Frederic Hauge is Founder and President of The Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian NGO that works on the decabonisation of industry and transport, renewable energy, nuclear safety, and other topics relevant to climate change and the environment.

There are different types of climate deniers. Some deny the science. Others stubbornly refuse to do what is necessary to combat climate change. Certain Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) seemingly fall into the latter category.

The Parliament is about to vote on a resolution to the United Nations COP24 summit. In a new Recital originating from the Parliament’s Development Committee, a set of authors says CCS technologies are “unproven”, that storing CO2 is equivalent to creating “artificial” carbon sinks, and that CCS should not be part of any [sic] mitigation solution. The authors of the recital R* in the draft resolution also say that they prefer “existing solutions”, whatever that means.

It is hard to believe that the European Parliament is even considering adopting this nonsense.

CO2 storage exists already

Safe CO2 storage on a scale of millions of tonnes over several decades has taken place in Canada, Norway and many other countries. As time passes, the CO2 even becomes more stable, not less. Evidence from projects such as Sleipner in Norway is testament to this.

Offshore and onshore geological formations have stored carbon, in the form of oil and gas, for millions of years. These rocks can be used to inject and safely store CO2. These are no “artificial” carbon sinks; geological formations are about as natural as carbon sinks can get. This is about putting carbon back where it belongs.

Moreover, carbon capture technologies (including CO2 compression and transportation) have been used for decades. It is either ignorant or deceitful to say that they do not exist.

It is of course true that CCS technologies have yet not been deployed in the type of large-scale, commercial projects that many of us hoped for a decade ago. But as emissions are set to reach new highs in 2018, the importance of CCS and the urgency with which we need to deploy it are greater than ever.

Norway’s latest CCS revival attempt meets lukewarm EU response

The European Commission has given only cautious backing to a project led by Norway that would see carbon dioxide emissions captured at source from industrial installations and shipped offshore to depleting oil and gas fields where they would be buried more than 1,000 metres underground.

IPCC: renewables and efficiency not sufficient for industry

The IPCC’s recent report is quite clear that renewables and efficiency are not going to be enough to keep us from experiencing the worst impacts of climate change; at least not without society embracing drastic and immediate changes to the way we live our lives.

Individual responsibility is important, and the same goes for the need to rapidly increase deployment of renewable energy technologies. But I am also pragmatic about the pace of progress we have made and the urgent need for us to do more. In Europe, embracing CCS should be a moral imperative; a signal to the rest of the world that we take climate change seriously and that we recognise the importance of technology in resolving our environmental mistakes of the past.

The IPCC states that “In industry, emissions reductions by energy and process efficiency by themselves are insufficient for limiting warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot.” This is the stark reality of the situation we now find ourselves in.

The IPCC report demonstrates, in various ways and in no uncertain terms, the importance of CCS and CO2 removal technologies. Therefore, Recital R in the COP Resolution – which signals to the European Commission that CCS is not important – poses a major threat to the EU’s ability to reduce emissions by the maximum amount. All this as we approach a critical juncture for the future of Europe with upcoming European elections and a soon-to-be-finalised new EU Long Term Emissions Reduction Strategy.

Scientists inject new sense of urgency into CCS

Europe – and the warming planet – has lost precious time in developing carbon capture and storage (CCS), a fledgling technology seen as crucial to decarbonise heavy industry, warned scientists in a new report presented in Brussels last week.

Non-CCS is expensive and unfeasible

Then there are the costs of non-CCS for the European Union. The Zero Emissions Platform, which advises the EU Commission on CCS matters, has estimated that without CCS, it will be €2-4 trillion more costly to decarbonise the power sector. Some energy intensive industries will not at all be able to reach zero emissions without CCS.

It is astoundingly irresponsible that MEPs feel they can disregard science, disregard Europe’s international leadership on climate change, and disregard particular technologies simply based on their own preferences.

The European Parliament has often been a staunch advocate for more climate action. But ruling out an established yet under-used technology such as carbon capture and storage would be a mistake of titanic proportions. It is therefore imperative that MEPs reject recital R.

***

*Recital R: “(..) whereas the technologies necessary for safe and efficient carbon capture and storage (CCS) remain unproven and in particular the geo-engineering involved in the creation of artificial carbon sinks is associated with risks of an unknown scale; whereas CCS therefore cannot be counted upon as part of any mitigation solution and should be prevented from clouding the urgency of radically stepping up climate action through the use of existing technologies and feasible changes in systems and lifestyles”.

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