Countries Warn Against Over-reliance on Carbon Capture Tech

REUTERS/Sonali Paul
View of a model of carbon capture and storage designed by Santos Ltd, at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference in Brisbane, Australia May 18, 2022.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Technologies to capture CO2 emissions are no substitute for a drastic cut in fossil fuels and their use should be limited, a group of countries warned on Friday, as tensions grow over the role of climate technologies ahead of this year’s COP28 summit.

In a statement, due to be published on Friday and seen by Reuters, the European Union and 17 nations including Germany, France, Chile, New Zealand and climate-vulnerable island states the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, said the focus should be on phasing out fossil fuels.

“Abatement technologies must not be used to green-light continued fossil fuel expansion,” the statement said.

Abatement technologies include carbon capture and storage (CCS), where CO2 emissions are sucked out of the atmosphere and stored underground.

Such technologies “must be considered in the context of steps to phase out fossil fuel use, and should be recognized as having a minimal role to play in decarbonization of the energy sector,” the statement added.

It was also signed by ministers from Austria, Colombia, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Palau, Samoa, Senegal, Spain and Vanuatu.

Countries disagree on the role CCS can play in fighting climate change. The issue is expected to come up at the UN COP28 summit in November, when delegates from nearly 200 nations will debate how to cut planet-heating emissions faster.

Oil and gas producers including COP28 host the United Arab Emirates have backed CCS technology as a route to tackle emissions while using fossil fuels to produce energy.

Other countries warn widespread CCS use risks giving companies a free pass to keep producing oil and gas – and could divert investments away from renewable energy to reduce the outright greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.

Some of the signatories, including the Netherlands, are funding CCS projects in chemical production and other industries where emissions are hard to avoid.

The Marshall Islands’ Climate Envoy, Tina Stege, whose country led the statement, said the group’s position was that CCS should be limited to sectors that lack other CO2-cutting alternatives.

“It cannot be the focus. It’s one of the tools, but in a toolkit that has to be about deployment, massive scale up of renewable energy,” she told Reuters.

Around 40 large-scale carbon capture facilities are operating worldwide, capturing 45 million tonnes of CO2 per year, according to the International Energy Agency.

The IEA has said this capacity will need scaling up by more than 15 times if the world is to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. At the same time, it said countries must massively expand renewable energy and halt investment in new oil and gas fields.

REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
A carbon dioxide capture unit which is attached to a biomass generator is seen at a greenhouse in Egchel, Netherlands September 5, 2022.