Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research comes out in favour of CCS

Publish date: August 8, 2014

A recently published study from the renowned German research institute affirms that combining the production of energy from fossil fuels and biomass with CCS can be the key to achieving current climate policy objectives, such as limiting the rise of the global mean temperature to below 2°C. The study is the most comprehensive to date on technology strategies to combat climate change and includes updated results on the role of energy end use sectors, energy supply technologies, energy efficiency, negative emissions, land use based mitigation, the scope of fragmented action and mitigation costs.

18 energy-economy and integrated assessment models from Europe, Asia and North America were used in a coordinated comparison to explore the role of various low-carbon technologies in ambitious mitigation scenarios, including different assumptions about technology availability, energy demand and climate policies. According to the study, the results provide a robust picture of the importance of individual technologies and the determining factors.

“Versatile technologies seem to be most important to keep costs in check,“ says lead author Elmar Kriegler from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “If combined, energy from biomass and CCS can even result in withdrawing CO2 from the atmosphere and hence compensate remaining emissions across sectors and over time, because grasses and trees absorb CO2 before they are used to produce energy,” he continues. The study finds that availability of a negative emissions technology seems to be a key element for meeting the climate targets due to the ability to compensate fossil fuel emissions across sectors and time.

Many simulations in the study could not at all achieve emissions reductions in line with the 2°C target without the use of bioenergy combined with CCS. Among those that could, mitigation costs on average more than doubled in scenarios without CCS.

“Our study shows that there are technology strategies that can enable us to reach ambitious climate policy targets with some degree of confidence,” says John Weyant, head of the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum. “But these strategies will only be possible if effective climate policies are implemented very, very soon.”

Bellona bids welcome the study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. It is to note that a study of this magnitude so markedly highlights both CCS and Bio-CCS – two of Bellona’s main focus areas – as crucial technologies if we are to stand committed to the policy objectives of tackling climate change. But as underlined in the study, these available technologies will only reveal their full potential if they are rolled out on a large scale – and that as soon as possible.

The study is published in a special issue of the journal Climatic Change. The synthesis of the results can be read here.