Lord Deben addressed the event, followed by a panel debate with Dustin Benton from Green Alliance, Sarah Tennison, low carbon manager at Tees Valley Unlimited and Angus Gillespie, VP CO2 at Shell International Ltd. Richard Black, director of the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, chaired the discussion.
Lord Deben argued that we can’t do without carbon capture and storage (CCS), and he welcomed Green Alliance’s effort to try to spur the CCS debate forward. He drew the audience’s attention to the global context, making the case that industrialising countries such as China that currently depend on coal need to transition to low carbon with the least possible economic harm – and CCS could provide a way of doing that.
Although many countries are against the technology, Lord Deben is confident that it can be a very attractive proposition if properly presented. And he cautioned that if industry can’t see CCS as essential, the government’s CCS programme won’t work.
Dustin Benton, the author of the Green Alliance report, pointed out that it is extremely difficult to decarbonise some industrial sectors without CCS. It makes sense for the government to pay to help industry reduce emissions, rather than simply paying compensation for environmental taxes without expecting action on industry’s part.
Sarah Tennison described industrial CCS as a no-brainer. If it doesn’t happen, the UK will miss its carbon targets. The technology works, but there is a massive problem: there’s no way of funding it.
The UK can be a pioneer in CCS, said Shell’s Angus Gillespie, because very few countries are developing it in a meaningful way. He considers public acceptance to be a major issue.
Generally the panellists agreed that the biggest obstacle to industrial CCS is a financial challenge: securing public investment so that the technology can become commercial. But Dustin Benton added that CCS also has an image problem – people associate it with old, dirty companies. Instead it needs a positive narrative about providing a clean future for British industry.