October 3, 2005

Climate change panel endorses CO2 capture, storage technology

In Montreal late last month, more than 200 delegates from 100 countries met in Montreal to consider a Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage, prepared by Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report, some 650 pages long, took two years to prepare and was extensively reviewed by hundreds of experts and governments, in accordance with IPCC principles and practices. After three days of discussion, the delegates unanimously accepted the full report and approved a 25-page Summary for Policymakers. This marks an important global endorsement of the CSS technology as an option for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Shortly before the IPCC members received the report, federal Environment Minister St├ęphane Dion underlined the important role that carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage (CCS) technology could play in helping Canada meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce GHG emissions.

"Canada's intention to reduce its emissions of GHGs by 270 megatonnes by the year 2012 is set in our climate change plan, a key component of Prime Minister Paul Martin's Project Green," Dion told the panel. "Canada is very supportive of the technology of carbon dioxide capture and storage - an important option for GHG mitigation," he added.

CCS involves separation of CO2 from industrial and energy-related sources, transport to a storage location and long-term isolation from the atmosphere. Recognizing that no single technology option will be enough to reduce GHG emissions worldwide to the specified targets and that a diverse portfolio of mitigation measures will be needed, the report concludes that making CCS one of the available options in this portfolio will contribute to achieving GHG stabilization goals.

The report describes the characteristics of CCS and reviews the current status of this technology. It also discusses important issues surrounding the development and use of CCS technology, such as its costs and technical and economic potential; local health, safety and environmental risks; legal and regulatory implications relating to CO2 storage; implications of CCS for emission inventories and accounting; and gaps in knowledge.

"This report demonstrates the global potential for a technology Canada has taken a lead role in developing," said Natural Resources Canada Minister John Efford. "While we are actively promoting renewable, clean energy technologies and other measures to reduce emissions, Canada and the world will continue to use fossil fuels for a long time. We need to pursue technologies, such as this, which will reduce the emissions associated with burning fossil fuels."

CCS technologies are transformative technologies that can provide a means of reducing atmospheric emissions of CO2 while fossil fuels continue to supply a portion of Canada's energy needs. This makes CCS technologies an important potential mitigation option in responding to climate change.

Canada is a world leader in the development of the technology and engineering solutions required to explore the potential of capturing and storing CO2 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The Weyburn oil field in Saskatchewan, in which the federal government has made substantial investments, is the world's largest sequestration research project. The capacity for geological storage of CO2 in western Canada over the longer term is extremely large, of the order of more than 200 megatonnes (Mt) per year, and potential also exists in eastern Canada.

The IPCC meeting in Montreal was a lead-up event to the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 11), which will bring representatives of more than 180 countries and 7,000 other participants from around the world to the city from November 28 to December 9. The Montreal Climate Change Conference, where measures to strengthen the Kyoto Protocol will be discussed, will mark the first gathering of countries that have signed and/or ratified the Kyoto Protocol since it came into effect February 16, 2005.

The Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Summary for Policymakers may be viewed on-line at www.ipcc.ch.

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