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The importance of CO2 capture and storage: A geopolitical discussion

DOI: 10.2298/tsci120608135j

Keywords: carbon capture , CCS , geopolitics , CO2 , greenhouse gas

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The CO2 capture and storage (CCS) technology is since more than ten years considered one of the key options for the future climate change mitigation. This paper discusses the implications for the further development of CCS, particularly with respect to climate change policy in an international geopolitics context. The rationale for developing CCS should be the over-abundance of fossil fuel reserves (and resources) in a climate change context. From a geopolitical point, it can be argued that the most important outcome from the successful commercialisation of CCS will be that fossil fuel-dependent economies with large fossil fuel resources will find it easier to comply with stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets (i.e. to attach a price to CO2 emissions). This should be of great importance since, from a geopolitical view, the curbing on GHG emissions cannot be isolated from security of supply and economic competition between regions. Thus, successful application of CCS may moderate geopolitical risks related to regional differences in the possibilities and thereby willingness to comply with large emission cuts. In Europe, application of CCS will enhance security of supply by fuel diversification from continued use of coal, especially domestic lignite. Introduction of CCS will also make possible negative emissions when using biomass as a fuel, i.e. in so called Biomass Energy CCS (BECCS). Yet, the development of BECCS relies on the successful development of fossil fuelled CCS since BECCS in itself is unlikely to be sufficient for establishing a cost efficient CCS infrastructure for transport and storage and because BECCS does not solve the problem with the abundant resources of fossil fuels. Results from research and development of capture, transport and storage of CO2 indicate that the barriers for commercialization of CCS should not be technical. Instead, the main barriers for implementation of CCS seem to be how to reach public acceptance, to reduce cost and to establish a high enough price on CO2 emissions. Failure to implement CCS will require that the global community, including Europe, agrees to almost immediately to start phasing out the use of fossil fuels, an agreement which seems rather unlikely, especially considering the abundant coal reserves in developing economies such as China and India. [Acknowledgements. The research on which the current work is based is funded by the project “Pathways to Sustainable European Energy Systems” and by the PLANETS project of the EU 7th Framework Program.]


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