WWF wades into carbon capture debate

The world's biggest environmental charity has called for a moratorium on new coal-fired power stations in the UK until carbon capture and storage technology has been shown to work and can be installed from the outse

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of trapping a power station’s emissions at source and pumping it into suitable underground sites – often the empty spaces left by drilling oil.

MPs of all political persuasions, and the energy industry itself, have spoken of CCS as a stop-gap solution in the transition to clean energy generation but as yet no large-scale demonstration projects have come to fruition.

In the UK, the government has said that all new coal-fired power stations must be ‘carbon capture ready’, or suitable for the retro-fitting of the technology at a future date, which effectively means very little.

“Currently, claims of CCS readiness do little more than refer to the need for power plants to leave space on the site for CCS equipment to be retrofitted in the future,” said Keith Allott, head of WWF-UK’s climate change programme.

“There’s no deadline for conversion to full scale CCS, let alone any guarantee that this would then be met. Reliance on an as yet unproven technology, however promising it may be, is a risky business – the future of the planet’s climate cannot rely upon good intentions.

“To avoid dangerous climate change, there needs to be a rapid decarbonisation of the power sector and a radical shift in the way in which the UK and indeed the world sources its energy.

“Renewables and greater energy efficiency should form the bulk of that shift, but fossil fuels using proven and strongly legislated CCS could also play a role.”

The charity has commissioned researchers at Edinburgh University to explore what ‘capture ready’ actually means and how best to ensure that readiness translates into action on CCS.

The findings are detailed in a WWF report, Evading Capture.

WWF is calling for the introduction of an emissions standard similar to that already in force in California, which will set legal limits on the amount of CO2 that new and replacement power stations can emit.

Sam Bond

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