Carbon capture needs $20bn in global investment

Governments are not doing enough to back carbon sequestration, according to an international energy body

Coal fired power will remain part of the energy mix for some time, says the IEA

Fossil fuels will unavoidably remain part of the global energy mix for some time, meaning investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies is vital, the International Energy Agency said today.

A new report from the IEA shows that CCS - a technology that prevents the release of carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants by storing CO2 underground - can deliver cost-effective emissions reductions. However, the report argues that governments and industry must come forward with $20bn to finance large-scale demonstration plants in the next two years.

"The window of opportunity is closing for the global community to cost-effectively address climate change," said Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the IEA. "CCS technologies must play a key role, but first they must be proven in the next decade."

"If we do not successfully demonstrate CCS soon, it will raise costs significantly for other climate mitigation options," Tanaka added.

The IEA estimates CCS could contribute nearly one-fifth of the reductions needed to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limit a global expected temperature increase to less than three degrees Celcius.

At the 2008 Hokkaido-Toyako summit, the G8 countries announced that 20 large-scale CCS demonstration projects must be committed by 2010, with a view to broad commercial deployment in 2020.

But so far only four full-scale CCS projects exist in the world and none of these projects captures carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power plant.

Several industrial-size demonstration CCS projects have been announced in

Europe, North America and Australia, but many of these projects are making slow progress.

CCS leads to an increase in capital and operating expenses, combined with a decrease in plant energy efficiency, meaning businesses are unlikely to forge ahead with projects without the necessary government subsidies.

"Governments must lead by providing sufficient direct financing or financial incentives for CCS demonstration," says the IEA report.

The IEA also asserts that CCS must be included in the Kyoto Protocol and the Clean Development Mechanism - which allows developed countries to fund carbon-abatement programmes in developing countries - if the technology is to be adopted in energy-hungry countries like China and India, according to the report.

The UK has commissioned one CCS demonstration plant, due to open in 2014, and is currently deciding whether to give the go-ahead to a new coal-fired power plant at Kingsnorth without specifying exactly what type of CCS it must use - raising fears that the technology may not be fitted at all.

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