The following letter, on the spending review decision to cancel funding for UK CCS projects, was published on The Sunday Times website on 6 December 2015
Carbon capture and storage, CCS, differs fundamentally from other low carbon energy technologies such as wind-power, solar or nuclear. The money it costs does not provide electricity but instead it does something absolutely unique: it breaks the link between burning fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.
The world’s remaining fossil-fuel resources, if utilised, are enough to destroy any prospect of staying within the two degree limit on temperature rise agreed by governments at past climate summits. The most cost-effective and, realistically, the only practicable way of avoiding this is to enable nation states which use fossil fuels to improve living standards for their people whilst also achieving close to net zero emissions. And near-zero emissions will need to be universal before the end of the century to keep total global emissions within one trillion tonnes of carbon, as the IPCC recommends.
CCS may seem expensive at this early stage of development, but it can more than halve the expected cost of keeping within this limit. So, until CCS is demonstrated by countries like the UK that are best-placed to deliver it, moving beyond the commitments ultimately taken at Paris will remain even harder without this low-cost option to reduce emissions dramatically.
CO2 emissions from burning natural gas are still high enough that, to meet our national carbon budgets by the mid-2020s, CCS will have to be deployed to natural gas power plants. Therefore, the decision on the day of the Chancellor’s Spending Review to cancel funding for UK CCS projects that are ready to be demonstrated may save HM Treasury money in the very short term, but it may ultimately cost both the UK and the rest of the world far more.
Mr Jerry Blackford, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prof Andy Chadwick, British Geological Survey, Prof Jon Gibbins, University of Edinburgh, Prof Stuart Haszeldine, University of Edinburgh, Prof Mohamed Pourkashanian, University of Sheffield, Dr Julia Race, University of Strathclyde, Dr David Reiner, University of Cambridge, Dr Nilay Shah, Imperial College London, Prof Colin Snape, University of Nottingham