Newton Abbot resident Jessie Stevens is heading to Glasgow for the COP26 summit in November, and plans to pedal the whole 570 miles! She will be cycling under the banner of the People Pedal Power mission she has created. This aims to inspire people (particularly young people) to join her on her journey and deliver a message to the climate conference on the need for urgent action on green transport infrastructure, and much else.
Jessie, 16, is a climate activist determined to make the voice of youth heard at COP26. Such events have long been dominated by adults, she says, many of whom may not live to see the worst effects of the climate crisis. “The youth are rarely a part of these talks despite the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown impacting them the most.”
After looking at her travel options, Jessie found the easiest, cheapest, but most polluting way to get to Glasgow would be by car or plane. Taking the (less polluting) train looked complicated and expensive. She decided she would like to travel under her own power and resolved to cycle, and make as much noise as possible along the way.
“To me, cycling is a very community orientated mode of travel. This perfectly fitted my visions of #ride2COP26 as it gives space for many individuals to join the ride, gathering force and power,” she says.
Jessie will be supported on her trip by Adventure Syndicate, a collective of women endurance cyclists, who will accompany her on a cargo bike, carrying everything she needs.
“The cargo bike will not only provide physical support, but will also tangibly represent one of the viable solutions to developing a more sustainable transport system,” says Jessie. “After all, this journey is not just about highlighting what is wrong, but also about demonstrating solutions.”
Adventure Syndicate will also co-produce a film documenting the journey and the stories of those involved and the people Jessie meets along the way.
Jessie will set off on 20th October, covering between 50-70 miles a day, and invites people to join her for a few miles to highlight people power—both in terms of active travel and political voice.
“Working with industry aiming to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes, and aiming to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade”
A ‘twin track’ approach to supporting multiple technologies including ‘green’ electrolytic and ‘blue’ carbon capture-enabled hydrogen production.
A UK hydrogen economy could be worth £900 million and create over 9,000 high-quality jobs by 2030, potentially rising to 100,000 jobs and worth up to £13 billion by 2050
Hydrogen could play an important role in decarbonising polluting, energy-intensive industries like chemicals, oil refineries, power and heavy transport like shipping, HGV lorries and trains
By 2050 20-35% of the UK’s energy consumption could be hydrogen-based.
A consultation to be launched, based on offshore wind, to look at ways to overcome the cost gap between low carbon hydrogen and fossil fuels, plus a consultation on a £240 million Net Zero Hydrogen Fund, to support the commercial deployment of new low carbon hydrogen production plants.
Working with industry to assess the safety, technical feasibility, and cost effectiveness of mixing 20% hydrogen into the existing gas supply.
£105 million in UK government funding provided to support polluting industries to significantly slash their emissions
In the original press release, and elsewhere, it was mentioned that 3 million homes would be powered by hydrogen by 2030 but BEIS have now amended the press release and confirmed that this was an equivalent illustration and that hydrogen will predominantly be used in heavy industry.
As stated in the strategy, with currently almost no low carbon production of hydrogen in the UK or globally, meeting the 2030 target will require rapid and significant scale up over coming years. It then describes where Hydrogen comes from:
“There are almost no abundant natural sources of pure hydrogen, which means that it has to be manufactured. The most common production route is steam methane reformation (SMR), where natural gas is reacted with steam to form hydrogen. This is a carbon-intensive process, but one which can be made low carbon through the addition of carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) – to produce a gas often called ‘blue hydrogen’. Hydrogen can also be produced through electrolysis, where electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen – gas from this process is often referred to as ‘green hydrogen’ or zero carbon hydrogen when the electricity comes from renewable sources. Today most hydrogen produced and used in the UK and globally is high carbon, coming from fossil fuels with no carbon capture; less than 1% can be called low carbon. For hydrogen to play a part in our journey to net zero, all current and future production will need to be low carbon.”
So in following its “twin track” approach the government assumes that blue hydrogen will initially start the strategy going with green hydrogen becoming more abundant (and cheap) in later decades. Without specifying proportions however, it seems that in both mix and, as shown below, use, the government is relying on the market to find the best combination.
Some key points:
Here is a graph from the report showing the estimated hydrogen demand in various sectors, in Terawatt Hours (TWh) (one Trillion Kilowatt hours), in 2030 & 2035.
Note in particular the 0-45 estimate for heating, this reflects the uncertainty about the lesser priority of hydrogen for domestic use and the availability today of alternatives, eg Heat Pumps. To put this into perspective the anticipated <1 TWh in 2030 and up to 45 TWh in 2035 represents about 0.2% and 10% respectively of the UK’s current energy demand for space and water heating.
It’s likely therefore that, as mentioned in the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC’s) balanced pathway to Net Zero, hydrogen may play a part in heating where the housing is near to the hydrogen production and electrification is not possible or where there is stored hydrogen created from surplus renewable energy.
Unless using this stored hydrogen however, it makes little sense to use green hydrogen for heating when the renewable energy used to create it would be better used to provide the heating directly and so save the wasted energy from conversion.
It’s often quoted that “the only waste from using hydrogen is water”. This is true when hydrogen is used in “fuel cells”, where a chemical reaction takes place, or where hydrogen is burned in pure oxygen but it is not true when, as would be the case with heating, it is burned in air. Air’s main constituent is Nitrogen and burning hydrogen in it produces other pollutants, known as NOx. The strategy considers these and how industry must ensure they are kept within emission limits, opponents however consider that, along with the infrastructure changes needed, it’s unacceptable to plan for any such emissions.
As explained in an Annex, with an established battery electric vehicle industry now well established, cars and vans do not feature in transport assumptions, leaving the use of hydrogen for haulage, busses, rail, shipping and aviation however, given the rapid development in battery technology, the annex casts doubt over the likelihood of the first three. Consequently, as mentioned above, it seems the government will wait and see what the markets come up with.
In 2050 the strategy estimates somewhere between 20% to 35% of the UK’s total energy demand being provided by hydrogen. In the CCC’s 6th Carbon Budget report last year, its balanced pathway relied upon a maximum of about 20%. Until the government releases its own energy pathway it’s not possible to reconcile the two.
As blue hydrogen relies on a supply of natural gas there’s suspicion outside government over its promotion as an energy source by the fossil fuel industry and studies, including this one in the USA, indicate that current production methods, including carbon capture and storage, result in significant CO2 and Methane (CH4) emissions, both in the extraction of the gas in the first place and then leakage in the capture and storage processes.
This view was reinforced by reports that Chris Jackson, the chair of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association resigned in advance of the government’s strategy saying he could no longer lead an industry association that included oil companies backing blue hydrogen projects, because the schemes were “not sustainable” and “make no sense at all”.
As mentioned above, in its twin track approach, the government sees blue hydrogen as useful in creating a path to green hydrogen but, with BEIS talking about up to 15 year contracts, concern has been voiced among climate groups that over-reliance on blue could lock the UK into decades of North Sea gas production, fossil-fuel imports and millions of tonnes of carbon emissions.
ACT’s view is that there will be a place for hydrogen in providing energy where electrification is not possible and in some industrial and chemical processes. With the uncertainties over the impacts of its production however and without scaled-up and effective capture and storage, blue hydrogen is wholly inappropriate as a solution and so efforts are better directed towards immediate reductions in the use of fossil fuels with any hydrogen pathway being primarily towards green hydrogen.
This month the UN’s IPCC published the first part of its 6th Assessment Report (AR6). Entitled The Physical Science Basis (for Climate Change) it was written by the IPCC’s Working Group l (WG1), comprising 700 authors from 66 countries, and involving the assessment of 14,000 peer-reviewed studies up to 31 January 2021.
Quoting the IPCC, the report; “assesses the current evidence on the physical science of climate change, evaluating knowledge gained from observations, reanalyses, palaeoclimate archives and climate model simulations, as well as physical, chemical and biological climate processes”.
There is actually no new science in AR6, it confirms what we already know and are seeing, but with more advanced methodologies and comprehensive data than was available for AR5 (2013). Consequently, there’s more granularity on the consequences and geographical impacts and its opinions are more robust, with greater degrees of certainty, and without the cautious language of the past.
The report itself runs to 4,000 pages but the IPCC has issued a 40 page “Summary for Policymakers” (SPM) each line of which has been agreed by representatives of the 195 member governments.
Three more reports associated with AR6 are due next year:
Working Group ll is set to publish Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability in February 2022.
Working Group lll is set to publish Mitigation of climate change in March 2022.
The IPCC will release a Synthesis Report, in September 2022, bringing together the findings of all three working groups.
It is now unequivocal that humans have warmed the planet, causing widespread and rapid changes to Earth’s oceans, ice and land surface, with the present state of many parts of the climate system being unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.
Many of these changes, particularly to the oceans, ice sheets and global sea levels, are irreversible and abrupt changes and “tipping points”, such as rapid Antarctic ice sheet melt and forest dieback, cannot be ruled out.
The links between human-caused warming and the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events, is now established as fact.
With increased global warming previously rare “compound” extreme events, eg a heat wave followed by fire or flood, will become more frequent and intense with longer durations.
Nowhere on the Planet is safe from the impacts of global warming.
In almost all emissions scenarios, global warming is expected to hit 1.5C (The Paris target for 2100) in the 2030s and, without reaching net-zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gases, the climate system will continue to warm.
Near-term emissions cuts can reduce the rate of unprecedented warming, and net-zero will work for stabilising or even reducing surface temperatures.
Models & Scenarios
The report uses the output from the latest generation of about 100 global climate models run by modelling groups around the world within five distinct scenarios (pathways) that describe how global society, demographics and economics might change in the future.
These recently developed scenarios, known as Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs), have been used, with the models, to develop projections of energy use, air pollution control, land use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over this century but in the absence of new climate policies, beyond those already in place today..
For the purposes of the report the results were further categorised into bands of expected global warming effects (radiative forcing) at the end of the century, measured in Watts per square metre. This measurement represents the net amount of the sun’s energy being absorbed by the planet, ie the energy arriving from the sun, less the amount reflected back into space, say by atmospheric aerosols.
The report’s scenarios (chosen from 4 of the 5 SSPs) and their effects can be briefly described as follows, with each one showing the original SSP (SSP1, SSP2 etc) and its radiative forcing at the end of the century (1.9, 2.6 etc):
SSP1-1.9: After an initial overshoot, warming is held to approximately 1.5C above 1850-1900 in 2100 (2C is extremely unlikely to be exceeded) and implies net-zero CO2 emissions around the middle of the century.
SSP1-2.6: 2C warming is unlikely to be exceeded, with implied net-zero emissions in the second half of the century.
SSP2-4.5: Is approximately in line with the upper end of combined pledges from countries under the Paris Agreement. The scenario “deviates mildly from a ‘no-additional climate-policy’ reference scenario, resulting in a best-estimate warming around 2.7C by the end of the 21st century”.
SSP3-7.0: A medium-to-high reference scenario resulting from no additional climate policy, with “particularly high non-CO2 emissions, including high aerosols emissions”.
SSP5-8.5: A high reference scenario with no additional climate policy. Emissions this high are only achieved within the fossil-fuelled SSP5.
Whilst the authors are sceptical about the likelihood of SSP5-8.5, they say the projections “can still be valuable” and that the concentrations of greenhouse gases it contains “cannot be ruled out”.
The report says warming is very likely to be within ranges for each scenario so, for example, by 2081-2100, SSP1-1.9 has a range of 1.0-1.8C, SSP1-2.6: 1.3-2.4C and SSP5-8.5: 3.3-5.7C.
Here is a graph of all five pathways, using the report’s best estimates of target temperatures:
To put these temperature ranges into perspective the SPM points out (with medium confidence) that; “The last time global surface temperature was sustained at or above 2.5C higher than 1850–1900 was over 3m years ago.”
Given the weather extremes already being experienced at just over 1C and the uncertainty over the various tipping points, eg irreversible melting of land ice, ACT and most academics now consider SSP-1.9 the only, but still worst case, scenario worth considering.
Comparisons with the Paris Agreement & 1.5C
Following the Paris Agreement in 2015, and the pledge to “pursue efforts” to keep global warming below 1.5C (over pre-industrial levels), the IPCC published a special report on 1.5C (SR15) in 2018 that looked at questions including how close the world was to breaching the limit, what it would take to avoid doing so and what might happen if those efforts failed.
AR6 WG1 examines the first question and its findings are similar to SR15 however the SPM states that the predictions on when 1.5C is first breached are far more detailed in the AR6 than the SR15 and so are not directly comparable.
Nevertheless, AR6 states that :
“In all scenarios assessed here, except SSP5-8.5, the central estimate of crossing the 1.5C threshold lies in the early 2030s.”
Carbon Budgets and Net-Zero
A carbon budget is an estimate of the maximum amount of CO2 emissions that can still be released into the atmosphere before a particular temperature increase is reached. In accordance with the Paris Agreement the two key increases are 1.5C or 2C, since pre-industrial times (around 1870). Measurements are in Gigatonnes (one billion tonnes) of CO2 (GtCO2).
Temperature increases are roughly aligned with accumulating emissions and so scientists calculate the total emissions, that will result in say a 1.5C increase, and then deduct what has already been emitted since 1870, the difference is the remaining budget that we can emit before reaching the particular temperature threshold.
An important consideration is that, as we have already accumulated so much CO2, the amount left to emit is quite small and so is sensitive to differing assumptions in the calculations. It’s a bit like filling a bath to just below the brim and trying to estimate how long, and with what force, we can leave the taps running before it overflows whilst incorporating an estimate of the loss of water from a badly fitted plug.
The modelling results and statements carry a degree of uncertainty which are expressed in terms such as “extremely likely” and associated with a % likelihood. In AR6 they calculate that a 460GtCO2 budget would give the world a 50% chance of limiting the increase to 1.5C and 360GtCO2 a 67% chance (The budgets for a 2C increase, with the same probabilities are 1,310GtCO2 and 1,110GtCO2 respectively).
The world is currently emitting about 40GtCO2 a year which is why there is an urgent need for “substantial and sustained reductions”, with the next decade being crucial.
Scenarios are increasingly dependent upon the availability of facilities for CO2 removal (CDR), ie natural or industrial methods for removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and the report covers the effects of these in detail, including some negative side effects on land use, food production, water quality and biodiversity.
The reliance on “net” emissions has grown in recent years with SR15 calling for Net-Zero by around 2050, in other words making sure that, by that date, what the world is emitting is cancelled out by what the world is removing. AR6 WG1 has not changed this.
Whilst AR6 WG1 concentrates on CO2, as the primary source of human caused warming, it also considers the effects of “non-CO2” GreenHouse Gasses (GHG) both in terms of those that warm and those that cool. Reducing some warming non-CO2 GHG will be possible but they will not be eliminated and so the report states that additional CO2 removals will be necessary to compensate for these.
Given the inherent uncertainties ACT believes that we owe it to future generations not only to strive to hit Net-Zero well in advance of 2050, by concentrating on emission reductions rather than significant CO2 removals, but also to use the carbon budget most closely aligned with achieving at least a 67% chance of limiting temperature increase to 1.5C.
The report goes into detail over many other effects on the climate and environment, covering rainfall, ice cover, oceans (including sea level rise), tipping points and air pollution and, for the first time, has “a far greater emphasis on regional climate change” including an online interactive atlas.
These aspects are reviewed in detail in the following links:
A meeting of the council executive on 1st June passed a motion to run a public consultation on site options for the local plan from 14th June to 9th August.
Executive Committee meeting
You can watch the proceedings of the executive committee here , this gives access to a recording of the whole meeting, the local plan is item 6 on the agenda, which you can select from the menu on the right.
Jackie Hook said “We will have to choose some sites, help us to choose the least damaging. This isn’t however about who can gather the biggest petition against a site, this is about bringing to the council’s attention additional planning related information and knowledge.”
Local plan consultation on sites
Part 2 of the local plan has now been published and can be found here.
As you may know, the Government has told Teignbridge it must build 751 houses a year (they had planned to order 1,532 houses a year!). The council therefore has to identify the sites where the houses can be built. If we do not do this the Government will take over planning at Teignbridge and increase the numbers by 20%.
This consultation asks that members of the public help by:
Checking through the sites and see what may be proposed in your community and commenting about the sites.
Sharing the consultation with your friends and family living in Teignbridge. It’s really important as many people as possible know about the proposals and say what they think to Teignbridge.
This could well be the last time local people are given a say in major planning decisions like this. The Government is proposing to bring in a new system under which land will be zoned. Anything designated for ‘growth’ will be deemed to have ‘planning permission in principle’. Government ministers claim their plan will eliminate ‘red tape’ but many fear that it abolishes any meaningful involvement of residents and local councils in planning matters. The consultation on the possible housing sites ends at 12 Noon on Monday 9th August 2021. Do please have your say
Chapter 11 states Teignbridge’s 2018 carbon footprint and analyses emissions trends over the period 2008-2018, showing that the transport, buildings, agriculture and waste sectors have not reduced over that period.
Electricity consumption is estimated to grow from 468GWh to 940GWh (101%) as a result of electrification of heat and transport, as well as growth associated with growth mandated by the plan.
The report doesn’t give any detail of how this electrification will be achieved, but the proposed increase in electricity consumption is close to our own estimates based on widespread EV take-up and retrofitting the existing housing stock to near Passiv Haus standards. Indeed the growth in electricity demand is slightly lower than we estimated, so some other demand reduction must be assumed.
Possible sites are identified for 217GWh of wind and 726GWh of solar, totalling 953GWh. So on a whole year basis enough to meet demand. The report identifies a number of constraints, which mean that this much renewable generation is unlikely to be buildable.
Peak demand occurs in the winter, when solar generation is producing least. We see already that in the recent sunny period that grid carbon intensity for the South West can get as low as 30g/kWh when most energy comes from solar and nuclear. Contrast this with winter when on a calm day most of our electricity in the South West comes from gas when grid carbon intensity can exceed 400g/kWh.
The report identifies an increase of 201GWh of demand from heating, which will mainly be needed in the winter months. It also identifies 49 GWh from additional housing, if we assume that this will also be biased towards winter, the additional winter demand could increase to 230GWh. This is more than could be supplied by the identified wind resource. So Teignbridge will need to import more renewable energy from elsewhere during the winter.
A large amount of land is identified as suitable for solar development. Here there is also scope for a significant contribution from rooftop PV, however, this is limited in practice by the ability of local substations to deal with local generation.
This strengthened and condensed version of the CEE Bill is designed to present a clearer proposal, be easier to understand, function as a more effective campaign tool and amend certain sections of the first Bill in response to feedback.
Under the new bill the government will be required to:
Calculate and plan to reduce the UK’s entire carbon footprint: At the moment the UK only accounts for its “territorial” emissions, ie those we emit locally, ignoring those included in the goods and services we buy in from abroad and our fair share of international aviation and shipping. Including these emissions provides a fairer “consumption” basis for our emissions but, being one of the world’s highest net importers of emissions, nearly doubles the emissions for which we are responsible.
In accordance with the stricter targets of the Paris Agreement, issued in 2018, increase the chance of the UK meeting its emissions targets using equitable policies: The UK’s current net zero target is based on a greater than 50% chance of limiting global heating to a 1.5°C rise in temperature. To be fair to future generations, this needs to increase to 66%. In consideration of the UK’s historic emissions and its capabilities as a developed nation it needs to account for a proportionately smaller share of the global carbon budget, reduce emissions at a faster rate than developing countries and provide support for them to do so.
Adhere to national carbon budgets set each year, not every five years.
Reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions primarily by stoppingemissions caused by human activity, whilst also ending the extraction, export and import of fossil fuels: Little discussed even 10 years ago, the UK and most developed countries are assuming that, in the decades ahead, technologies will be available to remove vast quantities of carbon dioxide from high emitting sources, such as power stations, or even to remove it directly from the air, and then safely store it underground. Reliance on such speculative and unproven at scale technologies not only fosters delay in dealing with emissions but also passes the problem to future generations. Consequently the bill requires the emphasis to be on actually reducing emissions, rather than removing them once they are made.
Follow a strict nature target to ensure that it reverses the decline in the state of nature no later than 2030: The state of nature is defined as the abundance and distribution of plant and animal species; risk of extinction; extent and condition of priority habitats; and health and enrichment of ecosystems.
Actively conserve and restore nature: Focussing both on biodiversity and soils’ protection, restoring natural carbon sinks, such as in the conservation of woodlands, and restoring peat bogs all of which act as a natural reservoir for carbon and to keep it out of the atmosphere;
Take responsibility for its entire ecological footprint: This means preventing adverse impacts on ecosystems and human health caused by consumption, trade and production, in the UK and internationally, including the extraction of raw materials, deforestation, land degradation, pollution and waste.
Create “Citizens Assemblies”: Being representative of the UK population, to work directly with the Climate Change Committee and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, before the strategies are laid before Parliament.
The history of and debate over Net Zero: In 2015, nearly 200 countries signed up to the Paris Agreement committing “to limit the global temperature increase in this century to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C”.
Calculations were made of the maximum amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and equivalent gases, (collectively known as CO2e) that could still be emitted to have a chance of remaining within this temperature range and this “Carbon Budget” allocated fairly amongst signatories to decide how and when to restrict their own emissions.
Many scientists believe that reducing emissions to zero, as soon as possible, should be the prime target. However during negotiations in Paris, it was believed that this “Zero Carbon” policy would result in significant downturns in the economies of the richest countries and so, to reach consensus, countries were permitted to include methods to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. In other words, with a carbon budget of 1 tonne, you can emit 1.2 tonne as long as you can find a way to remove 0.2 tonne.
So when our government legislated for “Net Zero by 2050” the UK could still be emitting say 100 Mt (million tonnes) of CO2e per annum in 2050 (mainly from agriculture and aviation) and so must plan to remove at least the same amount to get to Net Zero.
Many scientists consider the Net Zero (also known as Carbon Neutral) methodology to be false accounting in that by anticipating removals, especially after 2050, we risk exceeding carbon budgets before 2050, causing spikes in temperature and irreversible climate tipping points thus making the later removals irrelevant. There is also concern that by providing false hope over the ability to remove emissions in the future, less effort will be made to reduce emissions now. The conclusion of a study by Lancaster University in 2019 was that trying to synchronise both emission reductions and removals, over thirty years, into a single Net Zero target was unrealistic and that the two routes should be approached separately, aiming for the best achievable result in each.
The calculation of fair national shares of the global carbon budget has also generated disagreement in that richer nations, like the UK, will calculate their share without recognising significant historic emissions still present in the atmosphere, leaving unfair shares for poorer nations that still need to emit to grow their economies.
Removals: “Removals” is the generic term for removing emissions and this is also referred to as Carbon Dioxide Removals (CDR). There are many different ways in which removals can be achieved and they can be broadly categorised as either Nature-based or Engineered.
Nature has several ways to draw down carbon dioxide from the air and store it, either short or long term. The best known is in plant growth. Trees and other land or sea plants use photosynthesis to draw down CO2 from the air for growth and to pass some to the soil or seabed as carbon as they decay. The short term cycle involves the trees and plants dying and decaying, with a release of CO2 back into the atmosphere, whereas peatlands, for example, can remove and store carbon for indefinite periods and, in the past two hundred years, we have burned such long term carbon as coal, oil or gas.
The process of natural storage, in say the soil, is known as “sequestration” and where it is stored is known as a carbon “sink”.
The government and its advisors, The Climate Change Committee (CCC), are therefore anticipating extensive tree planting and peatland restoration in the next few decades with the CCC’s 2050 net zero plan forecasting an extra 39 Mt of CO2e per annum being sequestered by natural processes in 2050.
On paper and in trials, industry has started to explore engineered ways to remove CO2 and store it. This is known as “Carbon Capture & Storage” (CCS) and the various methods of doing it “Negative Emission Technologies” (NETs).
The main group of NETs are “Bio-energy with Carbon Capture & Storage” (BECCS) which involve the creation of bio-energy from organic matter (biomass) and capturing/storing the resulting CO2, usually by pumping it into exhausted gas and oil wells. BECCS was the technology agreed outside the main Paris agreement as being the economically acceptable way to meet “Net Zero” targets.
There are several BECCS technologies however the main one involves burning wood for power. The UK’s Drax power complex provides about 6% of the country’s electricity and, moving away from coal and gas, currently burns about 20,000 tons of wood pellets a day, sourced mainly from North American forests. It has started trial CCS facilities onsite capturing about 400 tonnes of CO2 per annum with plans to eventually capture and store 16 Mt per annum.
The principle behind this is that, growing, burning and capturing the CO2 from trees provides greater carbon savings than just leaving them to grow, die and decay. There are however doubts over relying upon unproven technology, the availability of sustainable sources of wood, conflicts with land for food production and the fact it takes years for new tree plantings to grow for harvesting. It is also the case that not all of the CO2 from the transporting, processing and burning of the trees, can be captured.
On the plus side the capturing and storage process itself takes energy and so the exhaust heat from the power station can provide this.
The CCC’s 2050 Net Zero plan involves engineered removals of about 58 Mt of CO2e per annum by 2050, with the various forms of BECCS providing 53 Mt and the other 5 Mt coming to scale in perhaps twenty years in the form of “Direct Air Capture & Storage” (DACCS), in which CO2 is removed from the air and stored.
Offsetting: In simple terms offsetting is the practice in which, instead of reducing your own emissions, you pay someone else to reduce theirs. For example, you can still do this when you fly, by paying for tree planting to offset your emissions.
In the majority of cases offsetting has involved rich industries and individuals paying their poorer cousins but it has also been done on a national basis with one country investing in the NETs of another or, as indicated by the CCC, rather than struggling to reduce its own emissions, the UK might instead increase foreign aid to assist other nations to reduce theirs.
This practice may well have been an incentive in the past for industries and nations but the majority of countries have signed up to the Paris agreement and, with fair carbon budget allocations, each can look after their own, in other words it is fallacious to pay for someone to do something they were bound to do anyway and, in order to reduce emissions as fast as possible, the best approach, as set out in the Paris Agreement, is for the rich to reduce their own emissions and assist the poor to do the same.