IPCC says world needs carbon negative solutions

Bellona President Frederic Hauge
Bellona President Frederic Hauge
Dag Thorenfeldt

Publish date: April 13, 2014

- We are glad that the IPCC so clearly points out that the world needs not only emission-free solutions, but even solutions that remove CO2 from the atmosphere, such as biomass power plants with carbon capture and storage, says Bellona president Frederic Hauge.

The report of the IPCC’s third working group entitled ‘Mitigation of Climate Change’ calls for Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies, that is carbon negative solutions. The report calls for both conventional CCS on power and industrial applications, but also for CCS in combination with sustainable biomass, Bio-CCS (or BECCS).

Specifically, the report notes that Bio-CCS will be needed in sectors where emissions reductions is more expensive as well as to compensate for a ‘temporary overshoot’ of the 2 degree target or 450 parts per million scenario.

The report’s summary for policy makers states that: “Many models could not achieve atmospheric concentration levels of about 450 ppm CO2eq by 2100 if additional mitigation is considerably delayed or under limited availability of key technologies, such as bioenergy, CCS, and their combination (BECCS).”

Bellona was the first environmental NGO to put CCS on the agenda 20 years ago and has been working on Bio-CCS for five years.

– There is a basis of carbon negative strategy throughout our work.  Bellona has worked on the carbon negative concept since the IPCC’s report from 2007, presenting Bio-CCS, the combination of sustainable bioenergy and carbon capture and storage, in the Bellona report “How to combat global warming” from 2008, Hauge says.

Biomass – wood, crops, seaweed, algae – absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows. The CO2 is released when the biomass is converted and used for heat, energy or other products like biofuel. This cycle is theoretically CO2-neutral. If these emissions are captured and stored it would therefore remove CO2 from the atmosphere over time. This makes Bio-CCS a carbon negative climate solution and one that the IPCC sees as necessary to compensate for our excessive emissions from fossil fuels.

Ensuring sustainability

Ensuring the sustainability of the biomass used for Bio-CCS is central and the IPCC report also notes this. Life cycle emissions and adverse effects of for instance land use change need to be fully accounted for. Concerns around this have led some to caution the use of Bio-CCS.

Some governments have called on the IPCC scientists to tone down their recommendations of Bio-CCS. Among these are EU member states who already rely heavily on bioenergy (without CCS) to meet their renewable targets. Adopting this attitude fails to approach the biomass sustainability issue holistically and fails to take the climate challenge seriously.

– If Bio-CCS is to become the carbon negative solution the world cries out for, huge amounts of biomass are needed. It must be produced so that it does not lead to a loss of biodiversity or create or other problems in society, says Hauge.

– More than ever, Ocean Forest and Sahara Forest Project emerge as companies that really are a part of the future. We must seek the ocean and salt water to produce large amounts of biomass. Algae facilitates the cultivation of biomass in places that are otherwise not suitable for cultivation. Algae can be used for fuel, food and fertiliser.

Biomass can be produced and used in a sustainable way with strengthened regulation and roll-out of more advanced alternatives. All elements of CCS – capture, transport and storage – are available and in use. We now need to combine the two.

Europe’s potential

Bellona took the initiative in 2009 to establish a joint taskforce between the EU technology platforms for CCS (ZEP) and biofuels (EBTP) to look at the potential of Bio-CCS in Europe. The resulting report showed that Bio-CCS globally can remove up to 10 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere annually by 2050. This is nearly 200 times the annual emissions of major oil and gas exporter Norway.

– If Norway builds biomass power plants that are being combined with carbon capture and storage, this could make an important contribution to meeting Norway’s climate goals, says Hauge, while reminding that a recent report shows Norway is lagging behind in reaching its climate targets.

In Europe, Bio-CCS could remove 800 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2050. This represents more than half of the emissions from Europe’s power sector.


Read more about the potential of Bio-CCS here and its various applications here


For more information contact Marika Andersen at +32(0)475807483