Energy Transition

The UK’s new climate plan goes big on carbon capture - and fossil fuels

The government plans to invest up to $24 billion on carbon capture and storage (CCS), reports Quartz.

The government plans to invest up to $24 billion on carbon capture and storage (CCS), reports Quartz. Image: REUTERS/Andy Buchanan

Aurora Almendral
Senior Reporter, Quartz
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  • The UK’s new energy plan, "Powering up Britain", imagines a future that is primarily still powered by oil and gas, as opposed to renewables.
  • The government plans to invest up to $24 billion on carbon capture and storage (CCS), reports Quartz.
  • CCS is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions as they are produced, and locking them into underground storage.
  • But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that rates of CCS deployment are “far below” what is needed to limit global warming to 1.5C or 2C.

The UK’s new energy plan, “Powering up Britain,” published today by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, imagine a future not unlike the present: one that is powered by oil and gas. The plan claims that the UK will be able to continue extracting fossil fuels without undermining its net zero commitments by investing up to £20 billion ($24 billion) on carbon capture, a technology that has been criticized by scientists for being unscalable and an unfit substitute for renewable energy.

According to the report, the UK “will be powered by renewables including wind and solar, hydrogen, power with carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and new nuclear plants—while recognizing the vital role that UK oil and gas will play in the transition.”

A global yen for energy security

Following the energy crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, countries and companies moved to deepen investments into oil and gas projects in the name of energy security and cheaper prices. For its part, the UK has joined the renewed offshore oil boom, with $7 billion in investments into new projects in the North Sea, as well as offering tax incentives for fossil fuel investments.

This renewed interest in fossil fuels reverberated throughout the UK’s energy plan, with lines like “we remain absolutely committed to maximizing the vital production of UK oil and gas as the North Sea basin declines.”

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions as they are produced, and locking them into underground storage. The technology is thus far unscalable and expensive, but remains a favorite tool of the oil and gas industry to justify continued use of oil and gas, as the world works to transition away from oil and gas.

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According to an assessment in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on March 20, “Implementation of CCS currently faces technological, economic, institutional, ecological, environmental and sociocultural barriers,” adding that rates of CCS deployment are “far below” what is needed to limit global warming to 1.5C or 2C.

In a statement to the Guardian, Mark Maslin, professor of earth science at University College London, put it bluntly: “CCS is not required if the government moves to renewables as quickly as possible—especially as I am unaware of any CCS that works.”

Have you read?

The UK’s carbon capture-heavy plan comes a day after the Climate Change Committee, the government’s climate adviser, described the UK as “strikingly unprepared for climate change.”

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Energy TransitionClimate Crisis
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