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Global carbon capture capacity more than enough for climate targets

There is more than enough global capacity to capture and store enough carbon dioxide (CO2) to meet climate-change targets, a study has found.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) used models to create around 1,200 technology scenarios whereby climate change targets are met using a mix of these interventions, most of which require the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

CCS is a process which involves trapping waste CO2 from emission sources such as factories and power plants, and storing it underground to stop the greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere.

It found that no more than 2,700 Gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 would be sufficient to meet the IPCC’s global-warming targets although it identified more than 10,000Gt of CO2 storage space globally.

It also found that that the current rate of growth in the installed capacity of CCS is on track to meet some of the targets identified in IPCC reports, but that research and commercial efforts should focus on maintaining this growth while identifying enough underground space to store this much CO2.

While most climate plans focus on reducing the amount of energy used and improving efficiency through green technologies, CCS is thought to be a necessity as some technologies – such as long-haul flights – cannot be replaced by green solutions.

The research team, led by Dr Christopher Zahasky at Imperial College London’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering, found that worldwide, there has been 8.6 per cent growth in CCS capacity over the past 20 years, putting us on a trajectory to meet many climate-change mitigation scenarios that include CCS as part of the mix.

“Nearly all IPCC pathways to limit warming to 2°C require tens of gigatonnes of CO2 stored per year by mid-century,” Zahasky said. “However, until now, we didn’t know if these targets were achievable given historic data, or how these targets related to subsurface storage space requirements.

“We found that even the most ambitious scenarios are unlikely to need more than 2,700Gt of CO2 storage resource globally, much less than the 10,000Gt of storage resource that leading reports suggest is possible. Our study shows that if climate change targets are not met by 2100, it won’t be for a lack of carbon capture and storage space.”

The study comes as draft EU plans show that it is looking for an environmentally friendly economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic

The draft, which has been seen by Reuters and is due to be published next week, shows how the European Commission plans to use low-carbon investments to boost the economy.

The Commission will look into providing €91bn (£82bn) for renovations like rooftop solar panels, insulation and renewable heating systems and the EU will also tender 15GW of renewable energy capacity in the next two years, with expected investments of €25bn.

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