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Poznan Day 9: CCS in CDM Stalled

Discussions that had been continuing on the incorporation of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) into the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) have now halted.

In an open meeting of the negotiations–itself following several rounds of negotiations–no consensus between the negotiating parties could be found.  Three main camps emerged on potential use of CCS

  • Full incorporation with CCS functioning like existing off-setting projects
  • No CCS at all
  • Use of some pilot projects, but only with assigned companies

The rationale is that CCS could be a major form of reducing emissions globally, but that the cost of doing so would be extremely high.  As an off-setting mechanism, though, CCS does not fit neatly in the CDM’s sustainable development goals; it is not clear, for example, exactly how CCS is development or what economic service it provides for developing countries.

Further, there is the complication of how the long-term aspects of CCS projects could be incorporated in to the CDM process.  At present, CDM projects are registered, implemented and completed: the technology or installed facility performs as installed, and that’s it.  For CCS, this could not be the case.  The capture technology is highly technical and would require ongoing operations from the operating company.  Further, CCS is not a permanent project; each project would have a finite life span, with different technical processes occurring at different stages.  Essentially, these issues ask the question: how can the long term nature of CCS fit into CDM?

Even if these issues could be overcome, there remains a raft of questions about actual operationalisation.  Not least: would CDM companies be prepared to take on such high investment and high risk projects?  The initial investment would be hundreds of millions of dollars.

When looked at through this lens–which is precisely the lens that the negotiating parties were discussing–CCS and CDM are not easily compatible projects.  Not for now at least.  The issue has been tabled until the SBSTA and SBI meetings in Bonn in June next year.

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2 comments

  1. Niel Bowerman

    I would imagine that even if CCS were incorporated into the CDM framework, it would not become mainstream until post-2020 because the technology is still at such a primitive stage. Don’t current estimates say that CCS won’t come into its own until around 2030?
    So while including CCS in CDM would probably increase investment slight, I would think that it wouldn’t help much.

  2. Dan

    Spot on Niel. Plus I’m not sure the CDM as currently envisaged has the capacity to support sufficient volumes for CCS, even if we could fit into the existing CDM project framework.

    Annex I/II countries buy CERs in partial compliance with their reduction targets. The emissions from coal in the developing world now and over the next few decades are astronomical. Way more CERs than Annex I/II countries would be able to buy, surely?

    We need a framework that disconnects the volume of emission reductions from the buyer’s reduction targets. So if we can afford CCS (and I am very sceptical that it is an efficient way to reduce emissions), it’s implementation is not limited by demand for CERs.

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