EU climate policy is dangerously reliant on untested carbon-capture technology

EU climate policy is dangerously reliant on untested carbon-capture technology

An editorial in Nature says:

Last week, the European Commission published its long-awaited recommendations for climate targets for 2040. The commission, which is the executive arm of the European Union, is recommending that EU member states cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 90% by 2040, compared with 1990 levels. If countries agree, this would be an interim milestone, ahead of the European Climate Law, which sets out a legally binding target for net-zero emissions by 2050.

A target cut of 90% is not as ambitious as some headlines suggest. The EU’s existing policies could reduce emissions by 88% by 2040, according to its own projections. This would be achieved mainly through phasing out coal, converting most fossil-fuel power to renewable sources such as solar, wind and tidal energy, and electrifying transport. There will still be emissions from some vehicles on the road, from shipping and from aviation. Some oil and gas power will also be in use. The commission is, therefore, proposing to accelerate technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), that can take up some of those remaining emissions and store the gases, possibly underground.

The 2040 interim target was proposed by independent climate-science advisers to the EU, and it’s good to see their proposal being implemented. But the advisers also cautioned that getting to 90% by including CCS technologies will be challenging. The biggest obstacle is that the technology is not ready — a point reiterated by climate scientists who Nature spoke to in our news reporting of the announcement. At present, there is not a single fully operational CCS plant in Europe, nor a system for governing and regulating the technology. So far, ten CCS projects are planned in the EU, according to the commission’s science advisers. Assuming they all function, their combined carbon-capture capacity is expected to be less than the expected contribution from CCS to achieve the EU’s 2040 climate target. [Continue reading…]

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