‘Such technologies can never be an excuse to take the foot off the pedal when it comes to reducing emissions wherever possible,’ says chair of National Infrastructure Commission
The UK must commit to the wide-scale deployment of new technology that removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by the end of the decade to meet its climate change targets, according to a report by the National Infrastructure Commission.
Removing and storing carbon dioxide linked to emissions from industries that currently do not have a decarbonisation solution, such as aviation and agriculture, is the best way for the government to meet its environmental obligations, the report argued.
Enacting such policies by 2030 would enable the UK to meet its climate goals and the government must publish a detailed plan to deliver this by the end of 2022 at the latest, the commission said.
Options include extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology, whereby carbon dioxide is absorbed as biomass energy crops grow. These crops are then used to produce renewable power and emissions from this process are extracted using chemicals.
In both the biomass and CO2 extraction techniques, the captured carbon dioxide is stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
pourtant, the commission warned that the new technology was “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere”.
“This is not a magic wand,” said Sir John Armitt, the commission chair. “Such technologies can never be an excuse to take the foot off the pedal when it comes to reducing emissions wherever possible, not least because engineered solutions are typically a more expensive way of doing so.”
Moving quickly to develop technology in this area presents an opportunity for the UK, the commission said, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills that Britain develops.
The report estimated that engineered removals technologies need to extract 5 à 10 megatons (one megaton equalling 1,000,000 tons) of carbon dioxide by 2030.
This would need to rise to between 40 et 100 megatons by 2050.
With extraction costs of up to £400m per megaton, the industry would total £2bn a year by 2030.
Sir John said: “Taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
“While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs.
“And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find.”