Can “carbon capture and utilisation” technologies contribute to mitigating climate change? And if so, how should we choose in which of these various technologies to invest? These are some of the issues explored in the fourth scientific opinion of the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.
Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies remove CO2 from the atmosphere and use energy to convert it into various useful products such as fuel, building materials or plastics. But at present, there are no accurate methods to determine the climate mitigation potential of these technologies. This has hindered investment and thus their deployment.
The opinion draws on the best available scientific and technical evidence from across Europe. The advisors observe that for CCU technologies to contribute to climate change mitigation, the energy used in CO2 conversion must be of low carbon origin. In addition, and because the converted carbon may be held in the product for a variable amount of time and not always permanently, the assessment of the climate mitigation potential of the technologies also depends on a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach that takes into account the fate of carbon once released from the product.
Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said:
We need to be ready to take advantage of all possible proven innovative opportunities in the fight against climate change. The scientific advisors’ fourth opinion will help policy-makers, in the EU and around the globe, to know if and how to make best use of these technologies.
The opinion was drafted at the request of Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy. He said:
We are determined to meet our commitments to curb climate change, and for that we have to explore every possible avenue. This scientific opinion provides a roadmap for specifying how carbon capture and utilisation can be part of this effort.
The Scientific Advisors recommend:
- The development of a rigorous cross-sectorial and systemic methodology that includes a simplified Life Cycle Assessment to enable the calculation of the climate mitigation potential of various CCU technologies. This should be rolled out beyond the EU, for example through the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- The development and agreement of funding criteria for candidate CCU projects, requiring them to be feasible and green, to be superior to existing alternatives, to demonstrate additional benefits beyond climate mitigation, and to be ready to integrate with existing systems.
- That the EC develops a regulatory and investment framework to enable CCU deployment.
The opinion draws upon a comprehensive review of scientific literature, including the Scientific Advice to Policy by European Academies (SAPEA) Evidence Review Report, a wide-ranging consultation with the most relevant scientific experts and policy, industry and civil society stakeholders. It is published at the time of the 3rd ministerial meeting of Mission Innovation in Malmö, Sweden. Countries and organisations participating in Mission Innovation, including the European Commission on behalf of the EU, have joined forces to accelerate the clean energy revolution.
The Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) Group of Chief Scientific Advisors was established on 16 October 2015 to support the Commission with high quality, timely and independent scientific advice for its policy-making activities. The Scientific Advisors are seven independent eminent scientists, appointed in their personal capacity. The Group draws on a wide range of scientific expertise, among others through a close relationship with European and national academies (through the Scientific Advice to Policy by European Academies – SAPEA – project, funded through Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme).
Through their scientific advice, the Scientific Advisors contribute to the quality of EU legislation and complement the existing science advisory structures of the Commission, which include the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Agencies as well as specialised expert groups.
- Scientific Opinion
- SAPEA Evidence Review Report
- Scientific Advice Mechanism, CCU dedicated topic page
23 May 2018