Businesses and green groups call for Government to set out ‘negative emissions’ policy framework

The National Farmers Union (NFU), Heathrow Airport and the Renewable Energy Association (REA) are amongst the organisations that have formed the Coalition for Negative Emissions, which is this week calling on the UK Government to set an "unambiguous commitment" to carbon capture and negative emissions.

Businesses and green groups call for Government to set out ‘negative emissions’ policy framework

The businesses are calling for targeted policies that will support and enable viable projects to commence over the next decade

The Coalition for Negative Emissions had penned a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, calling for the UK Government to introduce policies that will support the technologies required to capture carbon and deliver negative emissions scenarios for some of the highest-emitting sectors.

Supported by the CBI, Drax, IAG and Climeworks amongst others, the coalition is calling for the UK to set policies into the 2020s, noting that the last reference to negative emissions from a legislative framework was the Clean Growth Strategy in 2017.

Additionally, the businesses are calling for targeted policies that will support and enable viable projects to commence over the next decade, enabling a scale-up of utilisation during the 2030s at a pace aligned with the UK’s net-zero commitment.

“Whilst we should seek to decarbonise sectors such as aviation, heavy industry and agriculture as far as practically possible, due to technical or commercial barriers it is unlikely we will eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions completely. Negative emissions technologies are critical therefore to balancing out these residual emissions and ensuring we achieve Net Zero in a credible, cost effective and sustainable way,” the letter states.

“With COP26 fast approaching, there is a real and compelling opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate to the world it is taking a leadership position on negative emissions. Conversely, if the UK does not act quickly, it could jeopardise the delivery of projects in the 2020s that can support innovation, learning by doing and the scale-up of negative emissions in the 2030s. It also risks Britain falling behind in the race to scale and commercialise these technologies, with a view to exporting them to other countries around the world to support their own decarbonisation efforts.”

The Coalition wants the government to create a market for the technologies by introducing a regulatory framework to help support and scale up viable solutions.

The members of the coalition have all set out commitments or aspirations that will need to rely on negative emissions technologies.

The National Farmers Union, for example, has a net-zero vision which would see UK farmers capture carbon from sites to create new revenue streams. Through Sustainable Aviation, Heathrow Airport has identified negative emissions projects alongside sustainable fuels and peatland restorations as ways to reduce emissions across the sector.

Drax, meanwhile, is currently running a successful bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) pilot at its Yorkshire power station. Drax claims that it is the first of its kind anywhere around the globe and could eventually enable its Yorkshire site – a former coal-fired plant – to become the world’s first “negative emissions” power station.

Elsewhere, Coalition member Velocys has collaborated with British Airways and Shell to build Europe’s first commercial-scale plant to transform waste into low-carbon jet fuel, with a site chosen in North East Lincolnshire.

MPs have found that the UK’s net-zero transition is lacking a “comprehensive regulatory framework” to overcome challenges to “dispersed” sites that would be suitable for CCS and therefore negative emissions. That is despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirming a further £350m of investment in low-carbon technologies, across the industrial, construction and materials sectors.

Of the pot, £139m will be used to abate emissions from the heavy industry sector. Investments will be made to scale-up the UK’s hydrogen production capacity and to improve related infrastructure; and to bring CCS technologies online at scale. The Conservative Party Manifesto notably includes a commitment to spend £800m on CCS during the course of this Parliament and, under Theresa May, BEIS pledged to bring the UK’s first major CCS project online in the mid-2020s.

According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), CCS is a “non-optional” component of the UK’s transition to net-zero.

Matt Mace

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