Carbon capture and storage: pulling down the barriers in the European Union

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is one of the number of approaches to mitigating climate change by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere. It involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from large point sources such as power plants, prior to compressing, transporting, and storing it securely in geological formations. The CO2 emitted is thus prevented from entering the atmosphere. CCS is believed, by many, to have massive potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions, with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggesting that CCS could contribute between 10 and 55 per cent of the world’s total carbon mitigation effort until 2100. This article considers the principal impediments to the development of CCS projects and the steps taken in the European Union (EU) to overcome them. The development of CCS requires not only the establishment of adequate funding mechanisms and, most likely, the existence of consistently higher carbon prices than those prevail today, but also the settlement of a number of key legal issues. Although much further work is required on the part of legislators, a regulatory framework for CCS is slowly growing in various jurisdictions, especially in the EU where a large step forward was taken in December 2008 with the passing of a CCS Directive.