Science academies urge G8 commitment to carbon storage

Scientists say power stations should be fitted with carbon capture technology Copyright: Flickr/robpatrick

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Developed and developing world scientists have called for ‘G8+5’ leaders to commit to fitting power stations with carbon dioxide capturing technology to curb climate change.

The statement from a consortium of science academies in G8+5 countries ― including Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa — comes ahead of next month’s (7–9 July) G8 summit, to be held in Hokkaido, Japan.

According to the statement, progress has been slow in cutting greenhouse gas emissions — despite G8 leaders agreeing in 2007 to seriously consider halving emissions by 2050. The academies challenge the G8 to follow through with their pledge and step up efforts to tackle emissions.

Carbon capture technology takes carbon dioxide from large-scale sources such as power stations and stores it, instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. The technology is yet to be incorporated on the industrial scale but, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it has the potential to remove up to 85–95 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions.

The academies urge that, "by 2009, a timetable, funding and a coordinated plan for the construction of a significant number of carbon capture and storage demonstration plants".

Such a timetable is the only way to avoid irreversible changes in the climate, according to Martin Rees, president of the United Kingdom’s Royal Society.

"If coal burning power plants and industries continue to pump out carbon dioxide unabated we face a growing risk of triggering a dangerous and irreversible change in the climate. Techniques for carbon capture and storage must be developed urgently. So much is at stake that current efforts are quite inadequate," Rees said in a press statement.

The academies also stressed the need for the world to move towards a "low carbon society" overall, including finding new clean energy sources, to stabilise rising emissions.

"The nations at the G8 summit should commit themselves to a much expanded and coordinated programme. The sooner this technology can be proven and widely adopted, and annual carbon dioxide emissions stopped from rising, the lower the risk of catastrophic climate change," said Rees.

Link to academies’ statement [193kB]