Measures to trap carbon emissions 'should be compulsory'

Measures to trap carbon emissions should be compulsory on new fossil-fuelled power stations from 2015, it has been urged. 

Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies said legislation should prohibit countries from authorising new power plants from 2015 unless they have the equipment to capture and store 90 per cent of their CO2 output.

Davies, who is responsible for steering draft legislation on carbon capture and storage (CCS) through the European Parliament, also said all existing plants should be retrofitted with the technology by 2025.

The use of coal as a fossil fuel is of particular concern in the battle to cut climate change emissions, with 50 new power plants planned in Europe in the next five years, he said.

Coal accounts for almost a quarter (24 per cent) of the EU's CO2 emissions and a new power station at Kingsnorth, in Kent would produce significantly more carbon than saved by all of the UK's wind farms put together.

With the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicting coal use to increase by 70 per cent over the next 20 to 30 years and massive reliance on the fuel in countries ranging from the US and China to Poland, addressing the issue is crucial, he said.

"If we can't tackle the problem of emissions from coal, we have no chance of overcoming the problem of global warming," he warned.

"The world's demand for electricity requires the use of coal, but to allow the construction of hundreds more dirty power plants makes a nonsense of all other strategies to reduce emissions."

Carbon capture and storage technology can drastically reduce emissions from power stations by preventing CO2 escaping into the atmosphere, instead storing it underground.

Davies, the "rapporteur" for a proposed EU directive on geological storage of carbon, said he hoped legislation on CCS could be passed by the end of the year.

He wants to see the inclusion in the new law of mandatory targets for new and existing plants to have installed the technology.

"If we don't introduce mandatory targets, what signal do we send out to industry - that carbon capture and storage is sometime, maybe, never," he said.

While the European Commission estimates that by 2030, the cost of operating CCS-equipped coal-fired power stations will only be 10 per cent more than for current plants, initial infrastructure and technology costs could mean construction is twice as expensive.

So Davies is advocating encouraging investment by power companies in CCS through a system of "double credits" under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

This would allow companies, for a temporary period, to claim tradable credits for every tonne of carbon they store, as well as benefiting from having to purchase fewer credits to cover their CO2 output.

And he urged the French Presidency of the EU, which runs from July to December, to prioritise the construction of 12 demonstration CCS projects planned by EU leaders.

An announcement on who will build the UK's first commercial scale CCS plant, as part of the series of demonstration projects, is expected later this month.

Image: Fossil-fuelled power stations need tougher legislation on carbon emissions, according to one MEP

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