Tuesday

22nd Jan 2019

Norway offers EU €140m for carbon capture

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg offered European Union countries some €140 million (1 bn kroner) to support the development of carbon capture and storage projects - an experimental and highly controversial technology that aims to scrub industrial processes of their CO2 emissions.

"The EU is a driving force in the development and implementation of CCS technologies," Mr Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of a major international conference on the subject in Bergen, Norway.

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The funds are not new monies. Rather, his government is ready to earmark the sum over five years to support CCS projects in "select EU member states" as part of the country's upcoming contribution to the European Economic Area.

The EEA is the single market that links the EU to the European Free Trade Association, the trade bloc of the western European countries outside the EU - Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

The Nordic country is a leader in the development of CCS technology, with three pilot projects within its territory up and running.

The prime minister argued that the technology is needed, as global energy demands are increasing but at the same time the threat of climate change requires that the world sharply reduce its greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

CCS is "the only solution," he said, that can square this circle.

"Studies show that in the short and medium term, a large share of the world's energy supply will continue to be based on fossil fuels," he said at the launch of the conference alongside Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body tasked with evaluating the risk of global warming.

"At the same time, we must make deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions. Developing and promoting the diffusion of CCS technologies will be important in resolving this dilemma."

He emphasised that the technology is not only necessary for western countries and industry to reduce their carbon footprint, but also essential in order to encourage development and reduce poverty in the third world.

"The world will need more energy in the years to come, not least to lift more people out of poverty," he said.

As the prime minister was speaking, a small crowd of demonstrators from the European Green Party and a local environmental group, the Green Warriors, gathered outside the conference centre to protest what they called a "techno-fix" smokescreen and a block to "real climate change solutions".

While industry and governments are increasingly embracing the technology, many - although not all - green groups are opposed to CCS.

Sondre Batstrand, co-spokesperson for the Norwegian Green Party told EUobserver: "CCS projects maybe, possibly have positive effects in 10 to 20 years, but that won't help us now. Emissions need to peak and then decline by 2015. That's just over five years away."

While pilot projects, such as the Sleipner project run by Norway's StatoilHydro in the middle of the North Sea, are up and running, realising commercial viability for CCS is not expected before 2020 or 2030, according to its supporters.

"It won't solve the climate crisis. Worse, it potentially is stealing billions from what is really needed to solve the problem - genuinely renewable energy and moves towards much greater energy efficiency."

While WWF and the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian green NGO, back the technology, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and most environmental groups in the developing world are steadfastly opposed.

Mr Pachauri reacted to the opposition, which many leaders at the conference are highlighting as a major obstacle, particularly if their criticisms of the still largely unknown technology begin to turn the public against it as occurred long ago with another low-carbon technology, nuclear power.

"They are free to hold their opinion. Whenever there is anything new around, there is always a level of scepticism. We should dispel this by showing that the new technology works."

"I acknowledge that these people say this is the easy way out and doesn't actually reduce emissions, but my response is that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good," he continued.

"Of course it doesn't reduce emissions, but we don't have a lot of time. This is not a substitute for all other methods. We must do those too. This can supplement them."

"There really aren't too many options for coal other than stopping the use of it entirely, and that frankly is not going to happen in the coming decades," he said.

Investigation

After spending €587 million, EU has zero CO2 storage plants

The EU has spent at least €587 million so far on carbon capture and storage, and was willing to spend millions more. However, after a decade not a single power plant in the EU is currently using the technology.

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