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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Australia shamed with a Climate Fossil award over carbon capture and storage

Competition for the Climate Fossil of the Day Award is very stiff at climate talks. The satirical awards are a popular event presented by Climate Action Network activists.Three ‘Fossil of The Day’ awards are given to the countries who perform the worst during the past day’s negotiations at UN climate change conferences. On day two of the Copenhagen Climate talks Australia has shared in a Second Place Award as part of the Umbrella Group for proposing at a Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) plenary that carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects should qualify as Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects.

Greenpeace False Hope Report on CCS (PDF) - May 2008 | Flickr Photoset

The Clean Development Mechanism generates carbon credits from projects in the developing world which are then sold to companies and countries who can claim pollution reductions against those credits.

The Umbrella Group is composed of Industrialized non-EU countries: Canada, Iceland, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Norway, Russian Federation, Ukraine, United States and Australia. The chair of the Umbrella group is presently Australia. The Award citation says:

"The brollies have gotten used to subsidizing the coal and oil industries in their own countries-but do they really have to subsidize the same dirty companies in developing countries too? The CDM should be reserved for projects that move developing countries towards actual clean energy solutions. Umbrella Group, good luck capturing and sequestering your Fossil Award!"

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not presently a viable technology for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from coal fired power stations and is not expected, even by its proponents, to be commercially viable until at least 2020, and deployment of CCS at utility scale is not expected before 2030, by which time emissions need to have peaked and be rapidly reducing.

A 2008 Greenpeace report - False Hope: Why carbon capture and storage won't save the climate - says that CCS wastes energy by using between 10 and 40% of the energy produced by a power station. At this stage Safe and permanent storage of CO2 cannot be guaranteed with just minor leakage rates undermining any climate mitigation efforts. CCS could lead to a doubling of plant costs, and an electricity price increase of 21-91%., diverting money from sustainable solutions. There are significant liability risks posed by CCS including threats to health, ecosystems and the climate. It is unclear how severe these risks will be.

"Australia must stop pushing this clean coal pipe dream at Copenhagen," Damien Lawson, climate justice spokesperson, Friends of the Earth Australia said today.

"There are already enormous problems with the Clean Development Mechanism. Including carbon capture will only create more loopholes for polluters to claim credits. The Rudd government's own Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute says that it will take at least 20 years for any projects to be economically viable and that is only if the safety and technical issues can be overcome."

"Including CCS in the Copenhagen agreement will have the incredibly perverse outcome that would mean that companies who burn coal will be able to purchase reduction credits from companies that are burning coal with CCS in the developing world."

"This is further evidence that the big polluters, in particular the coal industry, are driving Australia's climate agenda." said Lawson.

In July 2009 Kevin Rudd launched the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute at a G8 event jointly hosted by the President of the United States, Barack Obama and Italy's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi in L'Aquila, Italy. The Australian Government has committed A$100 million a year to support CCS work and a further A$2 billion to support the construction of CCS demonstration projects in Australia.


* Prime Minister of Australia Media Release, July 10, 2009 - Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute launched
* Friends of the Earth Australia media release, Dec 9 - 2009 - Australia selling clean coal pipe dream at Copenhagen
* Greenpeace Report - May 2008 - False Hope: Why carbon capture and storage won't save the climate
* Fossil of the Day Award, Dec 8, 2009 - Fossil Awards Day 2: World's Shame Rains on Ukraine

Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.