If the world is to succeed in limiting the temperature increase, Sweden and the EU must invest more in the establishment of carbon capture infrastructure and plants.
It’s been five years since the Paris Agreement was signed. Tuesday 30 March, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency presented an analysis of Sweden’s greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that the gap between the measures decided on and the necessary emission reductions is smaller than last year. The serious news is that Sweden and other countries still have a long way to come before meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement. If the world is to meet the targets, total emissions must be reduced by 45 per cent up to 2030, according to the UN climate panel, IPCC.
With that in mind, we need to do more. Not least by switching to renewable energy sources such as wind power and solar power. However, we also need to address the carbon dioxide that is generated. Several IPCC studies state that the world needs to capture and store part of the carbon dioxide that is otherwise released in order to limit global warming to two degrees.
For years, CCS (carbon capture and storage) has been considered an interesting possibility. The US boasts full-scale plants, and Norway has pumped carbon dioxide into the sea bed for storage for the past 20 years. The Nordics have done a number of tests to implement CCS in a commercial scale, and COWI has been involved in some of them.
We know the technology works. It is possible to capture carbon dioxide and store it in liquid form in porous bedrock. The challenge is that it’s expensive. It is several times more expensive to capture and store carbon dioxide than just paying a fee and releasing it.
A key factor in carbon capture is how society generates the heat and electricity that we need. Many small production plants lead to a decentralised system – which caters to demands for flexibility. Nevertheless, it is tricky to combine decentralised production with rational carbon capture.
In that perspective, it is positive that Sweden has come a long way in centralising the system through a well-developed district heating network. Combined with the fact that several of Sweden’s leading industrial companies, which currently contribute to high carbon point emissions, have defined ambitious climate targets and are ready to invest in CCS, this means that there is a basis for establishing an effective CCS system right here.
Vast investments are needed to establish the fundamental infrastructure. As a country, Sweden should actively accelerate the development of this infrastructure. Despite the industry’s investments in and commitment to the climate and the green transition, the costs of CCS are far too high for private companies to bear.
Only public investments in carbon capture will allow us to keep the global temperature increase within the limits of the Paris Agreement. And we must pay the costs now.
We have nine years to reduce, capture and store carbon dioxide emissions in order to limit temperature increases. That can be done by increasing taxes on emissions and investing in CCS infrastructure, but it must be done to such extent that we reach a net reduction in emissions of 45 per cent by 2030.
How do we succeed without carbon capture? Not trying to limit global warming because it is expensive is not an acceptable alternative. We need to multiply investments in CCS in the years to come.