Saturday 22nd October 2016                 Change text size:

Paris climate change negotiators can use additional tools to prevent carbon emissions

Prof Stuart Haszeldine

Pledges being made by countries to reduce the carbon emissions that are driving climate change are inadequate and require much greater action. It is now clear that national commitments to achieving a low-carbon future (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) will provide less than half of the emissions reductions needed to keep global warming to within 2°C.  By Professor Stuart Haszeldine, University of Edinburgh/SCCS Director,

Negotiators for the Paris climate talks met last week in Bonn and will report to the UNFCCC on 1 November. A focus on renewable electricity and energy efficiency is good, but it’s not nearly enough. UNFCCC parties could, and should, be making the best possible use of other effective tools available, including Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

Increasing the scale and speed of CCS delivery across whole economies is essential to prevent global warming increasing by 4°C or, potentially, 6°C. Producing clean electricity, heat and chemical products reliably and at competitive cost are the proven benefits of CCS. This modernises the use of fossil fuel feedstocks, which underpin most industrial economies. CCS can plug gaps in the variable generation of renewable electricity and, with energy efficiency, can deliver the most robust route to substantial carbon reductions worldwide.

Earlier this month, an open letter sent to UNFCCC Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, from 43 leading scientists on five continents provided reassurance that the geological storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) is both safe and secure.

The UK is one of the world’s leading nations in developing CCS. The SCCS Conference in Edinburgh today (28 October) will illustrate how Scotland and the UK are seeking to deliver CCS for decarbonisation of the power and industry sectors. Two demonstration projects, Peterhead and White Rose, are on track to receive £1 billion UK funding and start construction in 2016. All of these milestones can serve as a blueprint for the rest of the world.

Without CCS, the world is heading for 6°C warming. Governments and climate negotiators can now use this proven technology to reduce emissions. CCS is compulsory on new coal power plant in the UK, and was made compulsory in the USA last week, yet only three nations cite CCS in their INDC plans. Carbon emissions are already forcing global change, sea level rise, and erratic severe weather. Reducing emissions while maintaining lifestyles needs help. This can be achieved quickly, and at least cost, by capturing and storing carbon.

Prof Stuart Haszeldine is Director of the research partnership Scottish Carbon Capture & Storage (SCCS), which is holding its annual conference in Edinburgh on Wed 28 October

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