Why does Europe need CCUS?

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Too much CO2 in our atmosphere is leading to global warming, which is causing climate change. The world's leading scientists have stated that unless the rise in average global temperature is kept below 2°C, devastating and irreversible climate change will occur.

In Europe, 4.45 billion tonnes of CO2 are released every year with the average person adding 24 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere every day. Our lifestyles create huge amounts of CO2 emissions from many different sources, including industrial processes, heat and power generation, agriculture, and transport.

Future generations are likely to live in a world of drastically changing coastlines, flooded cities, and growing deserts, where natural ecosystems that support wildlife and human civilisation are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.

Humans have been releasing CO2 into the atmosphere much faster than the natural carbon and geological cycles can return it below ground. Large-scale deforestation has adversely affected the world’s natural ability to capture CO2 and atmospheric levels have increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) around the year 1800 to about 408ppm in 2018. This has already resulted in a global surface temperature increase of over 1.1°C and over 2 degrees in the Arctic region.

A carbon-free world is possible in the future but CCS and CCU will buy us time while the world moves from fossil-fuel dependence to a zero-carbon future, where renewables and other climate technologies meet the needs of our modern lifestyles.

The United Nations has warned that we have just 12 years to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5C – after this point, even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

The Paris Agreement commits countries to climate targets, which cannot be met unless there is a rapid delivery of the technologies and behavioural changes needed to attain significant emissions reduction. Progress so far on meeting these targets has not been adequate, and the need for CCS will become more and more crucial as time passes.

The European Union has committed to a binding target of at least a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This will require the decarbonisation of not only electricity supply but industrial heating and process emissions, all areas where CCUS is anticipated to have a significant mitigation role.

CCS is currently the only option for significantly reducing CO2 emissions from industries, such as cement, steel, chemicals and fertilisers, which create CO2 as part of their process or because they require high temperatures that can only be met by fossil fuels at present.

Natural gas may be half as climate damaging as coal, but it is not a climate-friendly energy source. Globally, one fifth of all CO2 emissions from fossil fuels are from natural gas.

Hydrogen is well placed to replace CO2-intensive natural gas, providing a low-carbon alternative for heating, industry and transport if produced using surplus renewable energy or, for a reliable stream, with CCS as part of steam methane reforming.

Europe’s electricity demand can be met by renewable energies, such as wind and solar power, but several developed and developing countries are still including fossil fuels in their energy strategies.

The roll-out of CCUS in Europe has faced a myriad of economic, political and societal challenges, which have prevented the demonstration of the technology at a commercial scale. Our Network represents and supports the accelerated delivery of the projects committed to vital climate action.

The combination of biomass and CO2 storage (BECCS) can produce carbon-negative products, such as heat, electricity and industrial products. It is important that any biomass used for energy or heat, with or without CCS, needs to be sustainably sourced.

Fossil fuel economies and a just transition: The industrial sector is the foundation of Europe’s economic growth and welfare, generating a quarter of the EU’s GDP and providing 50 million jobs – in other words, every fifth job is industry related. Efficiently decarbonising industrial zones is crucial to future-proofing industry and safeguarding jobs; CCUS can play an important role in achieving this.