Cumulative carbon and the ethical case for mandatory CCS – Cambridge Biannual Opening Keynote: Professor Myles Allen

Written by Akeem Olaleye (PhD Research Student, University of Hull) whose attendance at the UKCCSRC Biannual was supported by the UKCCSRC ECR meeting fund

This presentation was the opening keynote of the UKCCSRC Biannual – CCS in the Bigger Picture – which took place in Cambridge, 2-3 April 2014.

The presentation focuses on climate policy for sustainable fossil fuel usage. The speaker explained that the current climate policy is fragile (i.e. only sufficient in closing the gap to 2020), but what we really need is an anti-fragile policy (i.e. the development of technology that will make use of fossil fuel in the long term), hence the concept of “mandatory CCS”. He explained that an anti-fragile policy is needed for the following reasons: (i) uncertainties not going away (ii) need for climate policies that are helped by uncertainties, not just robust to it. He further explained the need for mandatory CCS has the way forward using the cumulative emissions of carbon and the carbon reserves.  He asked if it was possible for us to get to the point where we are sequestering CO2 at the same rate at which we are burning them or extracting them from the ground as this will be the ideal goal.  He suggested the concept of “Sequestered Adequate Fraction of Extracted carbon” (SAFE carbon for short) as the ideal solution. He compared the SAFE carbon concept with carbon-price driven scenarios (e.g. Shell “Mountain” scenario, Shell’s “New Lens” scenario etc.) , explaining that in a carbon-price driven scenarios you have to go through series of measures to get to the target, but in SAFE all you do is just say “don’t”. He concluded by saying that SAFE carbon could start aiming for high total budget without sacrificing credibility. The presentation concluded with how CCS might become mandatory and those that might introduce it. The speaker suggested three scenarios for gradual adoption. This included consumer-nation-led scenario (e.g. Europe), producer-nation-led scenario (e.g. owners of carbon), and a consumer-industry-led scenario (e.g. airline industry).