Systems, policy and public perception


As well as the technical aspects of CCS, there are many important socio-economical implications, including systems, policy and public perception

Developing and deploying CCS also brings many challenges beyond the narrowly technical. Understanding the innovation processes for CCS requires inter-disciplinary studies drawing on natural science and engineering, as well as social science, economics, law, etc. Understanding socio-technical innovation processes can shed light on many relevant practical problems for policy makers, companies and other interested parties.

For example, we can learn from historical examples about the speed with which technologies can be scaled up and deployed, and how that was determined not only by factors internal to the technologies themselves, but also by how the relevant expertise is transferred between sectors and countries and distributed across organisations, how information was disseminated, how policy was designed, and governance regimes and other factors.

Of interest is also how to manage the establishment of the new knowledge needed, about the performance and impacts of CCS technologies. This can be a complicated process, especially when a technology becomes politicised, which is already happening to CCS. For the societal acceptance and support for CCS, it is also crucial to understand how the general public, local communities, NGOs and other groups perceive the technology.

Public perception is one of the key barriers to deployment of CCS. Local opposition has derailed experiments and some of the first projects aimed at storing C02 in the ocean (Hawaii and Norway, see de Figuerido 2002) and onshore in underground storage (Barendrecht in the Netherlands, Schwarze Pumpe and Beeskow in Germany; Greenville, Ohio in the United States).

Research on public perceptions is, therefore, a vital aspect in the development and potential roll-out of CCS. Understanding public perceptions will depend on key drivers such as the source(s) of the information, the form(s) the information takes and the framing of policies to support CCS. Identifying the arguments concerning CCS that publics and stakeholders find most engaging and challenging and also the issues about which they are likely to be concerned and most interested is an important early step. Clarifying at the start of a project what publics and stakeholders think about CCS helps to develop inclusive engagement strategies and allows any potential concerns or issues to be addressed at the earliest stage.

A critical element in public engagement is developing research techniques that allow both stakeholders and the lay public to talk freely about CCS, whilst also, where appropriate, giving them the materials they might need to form an informed and considered opinion.

Qualitative research techniques from the social sciences such as interviews and discussion groups allow us to explore how people think about CCS in relation to related policy issues as well as their broader life contexts. Representative national surveys (with 1000 or more respondents) also provide an important tool in framing CCS in the context of other low-carbon technologies and allows for collecting quantitative data where hypotheses can be tested for statistical significance. Qualitative and quantitative methods also allow us to gauge what kinds of information people find most engaging or useful in helping them to form an opinion of CCS.

Members of the UKCCSRC (such as David Reiner and Simon Shackley) have been working on the public perceptions of CCS for over a decade and the research community and the knowledge base in the UK has grown with recent projects funded by the European Commission (such as NEARCO2, ECO2 and ACCSEPT), the Global CCS Institute and DECC.

UKCCSRC will have a dedicated facility for carrying out research into public opinions which will include a programme of annual national surveys on public attitudes towards CCS and other energy technologies.

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Systems & Policy