The first major international initiative to galvanise technology that traps carbon emissions before they reach the atmosphere will be unveiled this week by some of the world’s largest polluters.
The annual Clean Energy Ministerial will play host to the new global co-operation plan to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) to clean up the emissions from power plants and factories.
The US, Saudi Arabia and Norway are preparing to lead the work to develop CCS, and their efforts will be supported by the UK, China, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and the European Commission.
It is the first time that governments will come together to work towards affordable CCS projects, which the technology’s proponents believe could be a major breakthrough in “decarbonising” power and industry in a bid to tackle climate change.
The Clean Energy Ministerial has brought together ministers from 24 of the world’s largest economies for the past eight years to develop a cleaner energy future. Its past endeavours have included accelerating the drive towards electric vehicles, which has seen a boom in government support and policy commitments as a result.
For the three lead nations CCS is vital in order to play a role in tackling climate change without undermining important economic drivers. To date CCS projects remain eye wateringly expensive. But by taking a diplomatic approach the participating countries hope to set up strategic partnerships to accelerate investment and create a competitive global industry.
The major co-operation deal is expected to emerge on Thursday, a little over a week after Norway fired the starting gun on its ambitions to become Europe’s leader in developing CCS technology and permanent storage facilities under the North Sea.
Its “milestone” investment of almost €30m (£26m) will help prove the technology at a pair of new demonstration projects at a cement factory and an energy-from-waste plant. A full-scale CCS chain traps carbon within factory flues through a chemical reaction and then pipes the emissions away either to be used as an industrial gas or stored in permanent facilities to protect the environment.
Norway believes it has the subsea capacity to store all of Europe’s carbon emissions, which could prove a lifeline for fossil fuel power generators and manufacturers, which might otherwise be forced to shut to meet government-led climate change targets.
The pressing need to clean up carbon-heavy industries has spurred a renewed appetite for CCS after a string of early projects fell by the wayside due to cripplingly high costs. The UK Government, which abandoned its own £1bn CCS funding competition in 2015, has put the technology back on the table in its clean growth strategy.