Why We Need CCS -- at Any Cost
Policy makers and thinkers of all varieties around the world these days are grappling with the design of smart, efficient policy; the challenge ahead of them is daunting. Energy demand is rising, especially in developing countries, while at the same time scientists tell us we must dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions or face catastrophic climate change events.
This urgency and tension is palpable -- at energy forums and events like Climate Week -- as we seek a new way ahead in international collaboration on energy policy.
The acceleration of carbon capture storage (CCS) technology deployment is a critical within this agenda. CCS is a critical component of any sustainable energy and greenhouse gas policy. It is not the only one – we need energy efficiency solutions, renewable energy options and more nuclear. But we also need CCS because of our continuing reliance on fossil fuels.
If there is no CCS, we will be in very dire straits. Because there are some very important economies for which we cannot expect a drop in the use of coal, for example the United States, China, Russia, South Africa.
Fossil fuels are set to remain a dominant energy source in the future, especially in developing economies. In light of climate change predictions both producers and consumers of energy must move towards a more sustainable, lower carbon energy future. That is why CCS must be a key component of any greenhouse gas policy and it must be promoted as a tool in emissions reductions.
We now more than ever need enhanced international cooperation and dialogue that addresses energy security and energy poverty.
We have made progress through the establishment of a green fund through the Copenhagen Accord to support immediate action on climate change. But considering the predicated role that CCS will play in reducing CO2 emissions in a least cost scenario, governments must work to ensure that CCS projects are able to access funds under this scheme.
This is particularly critical for developing countries, which according to the IEA, will need to be home to more than half of the 100 CCS projects needed by 2020 in order to meet future deployment needs. To enable the transfer of technology and full scale deployment in developing economies, CCS needs to be included in any post-Kyoto agreement and associated financing mechanisms.
Promoting CCS is not an easy task today. It is an extra cost without any immediate visible return -- especially when many companies and governments are reducing their capital expenses during a period of financial difficulties. Moreover, most people are not convinced that CCS is more than a dream. You can see efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars, nuclear power plants and wind farms, but few can say they have seen an existing operating CCS activity.
To this point CCS must be kept on the radar screen and knowledge emerging from projects, as they hone their technology and implementation approaches, must be shared. To further CCS, there is a need for a shared database that includes case studies, publications and CCS strategies being used across the world. This is an area where the Global CCS Institute is putting tremendous effort.
Significant work has gone into developing a CCS projects database, to which demonstration projects can feed in their experiences -- whether with environmental impact, safety, measurement and verification, issues around liability for leakage, insurance arrangements, or much earlier steps like pulling together required funding and working through regulatory regimes. This knowledge can then be shared with emerging projects, governments and industry exploring ways of funding and structuring projects, and the general public which needs to understand the significance behind this work.
We have a big job ahead of us if we are to meet the Copenhagen Accord’s commitment to limit the rise in average temperature to 2 C. That commitment requires a peak in emissions soon, followed by a drop to not more than 13 billion tons of CO2 emissions by 2050. That’s a tremendous challenge for the energy sector, which alone emits roughly 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. If current trends continue, emissions would near 65 billion tons per year by 2050 -- five times more than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considers safe.
I am encouraged in our ability to tackle this great challenge, particularly when I see the increasingly collaborative spirit of policy makers worldwide, particularly in the energy sector, towards developing smart, sustainable and effective policy that curbs emissions and improves global energy security. Because to actually do this, it will take a global effort: all of the tools at our disposal must be utilized, including CCS.
Claude Mandil is an active member of the International Advisory Panel of the Global CCS Institute. Articles, analyses and resource material about Climate Week NYºC are available at www.greenbiz.com/topic/climate-week-nyc-2010. For more information and event developments, visit www.climateweeknyc.org and Twitter @ClimateWeekNYC