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ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Up in smoke – could subsidies for BECCS increase emissions?

30/3/2022

6 min read

Tree canopy Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Burning forest biomass instead of fossil fuels and capturing some of the carbon emitted seems to be a win-win situation. Not necessarily, writes Professor Michael Norton from the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), who argues that uncertainties around carbon capture plant performance and, particularly, varying carbon payback periods mean that nothing is certain.

Currently, forest biomass in the form of imported wood pellets is a major source of renewable electricity in Europe and receives substantial subsidies and exemptions under carbon pricing schemes. Despite evidence that current utilisation of bioenergy is doing little to reduce atmospheric levels of CO2 in the short term, proposals are already being floated to add bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. 

 

Can this help achieve effective mitigation of climate change in the move towards net zero by 2050 or limit climate warming to 1.5°C in line with the Paris Agreement?

 

In our recent report, Forest bioenergy update: BECCS and its role in integrated assessment models, we review evidence that current business models which point to BECCS as a ‘preferred negative emissions technology’ to deliver climate targets, may contain critical weaknesses.

 

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