Government policy on carbon capture could see heavy emitters ‘dodge’ responsibilities – EAC

Current Government policy on carbon capture technologies that suck carbon out of the air could see heavy emitters ‘dodge their responsibilities’ to cut emissions, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned Ministers.

At present, targets for greenhouse gas reductions and removal targets are combined, which the EAC says offers ‘little incentive’ for industries to prioritise cutting emissions when the future option of negative emission technologies (NETs) is there.

The EAC has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to demand that the Government reviews its approach.

The EAC says it recognises the value in using NETs in industries such as steel and cement, where options to decarbonise are often more limited. However, MPs argue that the Government is ‘failing to take swift enough action’ to roll out technologies, with both BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) and DACCS (direct air carbon capture and storage) at close to zero levels of deployment in the UK.

No direction

Having reviewed the evidence it received on the issue, the EAC says is concerned that Government thinking in this area has been limited and ‘opportunities risk being missed’.

It says the Government is yet to specify what sectors could benefit from NETS, and there is currently ‘no direction on the transport and infrastructure projects that are necessary to roll out NETs’.

Net zero cannot be met without technologies to remove emissions from hard-to-decarbonise sectors, the EAC says.

During questioning, it heard that the UK was well situated to deliver engineered greenhouse gas removals, given its access to some of the best geological storage in Europe.

The sector is raring to go as soon as the Government offers direction and clarity, but with so many unknowns we can understand why deployment of NETs in the UK is yet to gain traction

The sector’s “number one ask” is for economic support to generate private investment to support projects go further, and the Committee presses the Government to set out its strategy here.

MPs suggest that clarity is ‘urgently needed’ in Government policy on developing BECCS, amid concerns that it could result in widespread land use change which in turn could threaten improvements in biodiversity.

They press for this to be addressed in the Government’s forthcoming Biomass Strategy to ensure BECCS development is robustly monitored and any risks are mitigated.

Transparency and accountability

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “Through our work, it is clear that Government thinking on negative emissions technologies needs to be developed.

“These technologies will play an important role in meeting net zero, because to maintain viability of our steel and cement sectors they need to find ways to restrict the volume of greenhouse gases they emit.

“Presently there is little in terms of incentive, and very little in terms of any Government direction or clarity. The fact that removal and reduction targets are combined enables many sectors averse or unable to cut emissions to dodge their responsibilities.

“Transparency and accountability must be improved by separating these targets out and highlighting the work that needs to be done.

“The sector is raring to go as soon as the Government offers direction and clarity, but with so many unknowns we can understand why deployment of NETs in the UK is yet to gain traction.”

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