The IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme: International initiative to combat climate change

COP-3 established that nations would act together to combat climate change. Nevertheless, Kyoto was probably just the first step in a long process of addressing this problem. If one accepts the scenarios of IPCC, deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will be needed if the world is to avoid major change in its climate. Most, but not all, of these emissions arise from use of energy, a commodity which is vital to modern society. To achieve reductions in emissions without affecting standards of living, will require extensive use of new and improved technology, by improvement in energy efficiency, change of fuels, introduction of new energy sources and abatement / sequestration of greenhouse gases. Some of these technologies are widely available now; others are in their infancy. In some cases, despite environmental benefit, the motivation for commercial development or deployment may be slight, since the technology will offer little or no competitive advantage to the user. Also, in the early days of a new energy technology, there may be few opportunities for full-scale investigation, so best use must be made of those which do occur. Many of these constraints on development may apply to the technology for capture and sequestration of CO2 in its current state of development. Such characteristics also make a good case for co-operative action, to improve understanding of the technology options. In view of the nature of the problem, it is especially appropriate that such action be international. The IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme is an international collaborative activity currently supported by 15 countries, the European Commission and 6 industrial sponsors. This Programme evaluates technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, disseminates information and promotes appropriate research, development and demonstration. The IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme has been in operation for 7 years and, in this paper, an overview will be provided of progress in the past 3 years. This has extended previous work on technologies for generation and capture of CO2 from flue gases. Sequestration of CO2 has figured largely in this work, including a series of expert workshops on ocean storage of CO2, an assessment of large-scale sequestration using forestry and formation of practical research projects on geological storage. Studies on methods of producing and using hydrogen from fossil fuels without release of CO2 have demonstrated ways to ease the introduction of hydrogen as an energy carrier. Another important theme has been to put the option of CO2 capture and sequestration in context with other large-scale abatement/mitigation options, such as use of bio-mass for power generation. In addition, a series of studies on abatement of methane emissions from anthropogenic sources has recently been completed. These studies have identified a variety of abatement options, ranging from near-term opportunities which are cost-effective today through to long-term options which might have major impact but would require substantial research and development. Some results from the IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme will be illustrated here. Other papers presented at the 4(th) International Conference on Greenhouse Gas control Technologies will provide further information.