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Industry must focus on short term CO2 emissions reductions rather than future removals

Published April 4, 2022

Industry must focus on short term CO2 emissions reductions rather than future removals

The UK must ensure progress on achieving emissions reductions is not compromised because of focus on removal of carbon dioxide at a future date using engineered solutions, according to an influential parliamentary committee.

Current government policy on technologies that remove carbon from of the air could lead to heavy emitters avoid responsibilities to cut emissions, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned.

To achieve net zero by 2050, the government has set a combined target for both greenhouse gas reductions and carbon dioxide removals.  The EAC has written to the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to demand the government considers separating these targets to better incentivise heavy industry to cut emissions. 

EAC Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “The fact that removal and reduction targets are combined enables many sectors averse or unable to cut emissions to dodge their responsibilities. Transparency and accountability must be improved by separating these targets out and highlighting the work that needs to be done.”

The committee believes industry continues to rely on the future use of negative emission technologies (NETs) to remove emissions rather than cutting them now. The EAC recognises the value in using NETs in industries such as steel and cement, where options to decarbonise are often more limited. However, the MPs who sit on the committee argue the government is failing to roll out the technologies swiftly enough.

BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) and DACCS (direct air carbon capture and storage) at close to zero levels of deployment in the UK. The EAC is concerned that Government thinking in this area has been limited and opportunities risk being missed. The overnment is yet to specify what sectors could benefit from NETS, and there is currently no direction on the transport and infrastructure projects that are necessary to roll out NETs.

Net zero cannot be met without technologies to remove emissions from hard-to-decarbonise sectors. The EAC heard the UK was well situated to deliver engineered greenhouse gas removals, given its access to some of the best geological storage in Europe. The NET sector is asking for economic support to generate private investment to support projects.

Dunne added: “It is clear that government thinking on negative emissions technologies needs to be developed. These technologies will play an important role in meeting net zero, because to maintain viability of our steel and cement sectors they need to find ways to restrict the volume of greenhouse gases they emit. The sector is raring to go as soon as the government offers direction and clarity, but with so many unknowns we can understand why deployment of NETs in the UK is yet to gain traction.”