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Douglas Parr: Well, hello, everybody. It's a pleasure to be able to present to you about my views on greenhouse gas removal technology. As you know, my name is Douglas Parr. I'm from Greenpeace UK, and I'm the policy director there. My presentation is about being wary about how much greenhouse gas removal technology will save us and about the issues that some of them have.#
The key points that I want to make, moving on to slide 2, is that at the moment, greenhouse gas removal technologies are unproven and uncosted, so we don't know how much we're going to be able to take out of the atmosphere in a meaningful way. None of the options is actually perfect. Now I'll explain why I prefer some to others, but none of them is actually perfect and so it's really important that we lower actual emissions. And what I mean by emissions reductions is this sort of thing that you've been looking at over the last few weeks, like reducing the amount of petrol and diesel used in cars, reducing the amount of gas used in heating and so on. So all the things that are contributing to lowering emissions across the piece. There are some greenhouse gas removal technologies like bio energy with carbon capture - BECCS, that what I'm worried about having serious impacts on nature and on land, and may not even work. And the other point is that the belief that greenhouse gas removal technologies will be cheap and deliverable can affect how we behave today and may mean we don't do the necessary things that we need to do to make sure that we're on track to hitting Net Zero.#
Moving on to slide 3. So, just to run over some thoughts about the options that you have heard about from Chris, as I emphasise, no option is perfect, but I believe that nature based solutions like forests, like peat restoration, soil enhancement, can be win win. In other words, they can be done well and they can help nature, and they can help carbon removal - if they're done well. But this is an if, and what that really means is that government has to be strong to make sure that we do remove the carbon that we say we're going to remove, and we don't trash nature in the process. I would I would argue that a nature first approach to these kind of approaches is good, and then we'll get those win wins. I have questions and in fact, I don't really like the prospect of bioengineering carbon capture. I also have questions, although I wouldn't be firmly opposed to direct air capture and storage.#
So the thing about BECCS and about direct capture is that they both need this technology called carbon capture and storage. This is on slide 4, sorry. And the thing about that is that carbon capture and carbon storage has been debated for over 20 years. I remember being in Greenpeace in the late nineties, talking about what we thought: what was it all right? Was it not too good? That's over 20 years ago, and we still haven't got a fully fledged project. The costs remain very uncertain, and yet so we shouldn't really be relying on it as the way to deliver negative emissions. Carbon capture requires more fuel than we currently use if it's applied to industrial processes. For example, a fifth more is needed in power stations, and there are other questions about whether there are enough suitable sites across the world, how well it would be regulated, not just in the UK but in other countries, possibilities of leakage, and we know that there has been opposition to projects going ahead in countries, certainly in Europe.#
So moving on to slide 5 about the threats from BECCS, that's Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage. Here's a quote from the Royal Institute on International Affairs, also known Chatham House, an important international think tank based in London, where they say that the deployment of BECCS and scales assumed in most climate models would consume land on a scale comparable to half that currently taken up by global cropland, entailing massive land use change potentially endangering food security and biodiversity. Food security is the ability of people and populations to ensure they have quality food and enough food and at a reasonable cost. So it does endanger, potentially it's going to endanger the ability people to access food and, so what that is saying is that when um, when models had done about the climate, energy and land system together, and the numbers are crunched by scientists, the scale of what is needed from BECCS to deliver on emissions reductions, is very large indeed and could endanger both food security and biodiversity because because of the amount of land that they actually need, which is half of the existing global crop land.#
Moving on to slide 6. There's another distinguished grouping called the European Academy Science Advisory Council, and they say that there remains substantial risks and uncertainties associated with BECCS and its environmental impact and indeed its ability to achieve a net removal of greenhouse gases and that we shouldn't be relying on on BECCS for delivering these things when they might not actually be delivered in practice.#
Now, why might BECCS not actually work. On slide 7 now. Well, first of all, if you have land and you just leave it, it absorbs carbon dioxide. It just does as stuff grows. So we need to take that into account, and is it actually better, which it might be in some instances, just to leave the land alone and it will absorb more carbon than BECCS might. Now in processing the bioenergy for use in a BECCS system, there are also emissions from soil damage, from transport, from processing, getting hold of the bio energy and that reduces the impact of the removals in the overall removals that come from the BECCS process. And, there are even more risks because if we convert land to use for bioenergy and remember that earlier quote saying that would have to find land equivalent to 1/2 of global cropland, well, what happens to the crops that were grown on that land? If we’re converting cropland, then crops will have to be grown somewhere else. And we know from our existing experience with bio fuels that actually what that means is those crops, the crops are grown elsewhere and grown where forests have been chopped down in order to grow them. And that has massive implications, both for nature and for climate. So there are serious questions about whether BECCS is going to be effective.#
So let's just say something a little bit about tree planting. This is on slide 8. As I have said, the trees are good. I'm a part of my local tree group. We go around planting trees. They're really good, but they're quite different from emissions reductions, and they're not any kind of substitute. And what I mean by emissions reductions is this sort of thing that you've been looking at over the last few weeks, like reducing the amount of petrol and diesel used in cars, reducing the amount of gas used in heating and so on. So all the things that are contributing to lowering emissions across the piece and one of the key reasons for that is that if we have carbon stored in trees, it's not the same as carbon stored under the ground, because eventually we know that forest, trees, they will become part of the natural landscape and some of that carbon will be released in things like forest fires, and when trees get diseased. And the way we actually go about dealing with tree planting leaves a lot to be desired. It's a process quite often called offsets. And offsets often don't work. Some analysis of the official offsetting process done under international climate talks showed that only about 1 in 7 projects actually added to the carbon being taken out of the atmosphere. And in some instances, things like carbon credits, as they’re known, these offsets, don't actually lead to the planting of more trees. There's an example of that from a petrol company in the UK where the trees that they are saying are being planted, if you buy these, you top up a little bit on your on the price of a gallon, a litre of petrol, doesn't actually lead to more trees being planted because what they're doing is is paying people who planted trees before 2008. That's not really adding to the carbon removals, it's just an accounting device.#
Moving onto slide 9. So one of most risky things about greenhouse gas removals is that they end up deferring action now. If you've been looking at all the things that we need to do. I'm sure you've realised that getting to zero emissions is quite hard, and some of it might require someone unpopular action in the short term. And the prospect of greenhouse gas removal technologies might seem quite appealing. It leads to something that's known or as academics have described as the attraction of delay. So even though we don't know where these things are going to be working, the prospect of them possibly being there can allow politicians to say, well maybe we don't need to do this unpopular stuff now. We can, we can leave it because we can have greenhouse gas removal later. And I've already seen this with a senior politician actually avoiding hard questions about reducing demand for flying by saying, oh well, they'll be all these future technologies. Of course, we don't need to stop flying.#
So moving on to my final slide, slide 10. Just to reiterate those key points, greenhouse gas removal technologies remain unproven and uncosted, and although nothing is perfect, I prefer natural, nature based solutions but it is really, really important to lower actual emissions and not to think that somehow greenhouse gas removal is just going to save us. I've run over some of the serious issues that are associated with bio energy, with carbon capture and the impacts on nature and land. And also, I'd reiterate that there's the belief that greenhouse gas removals could be cheap and deliverable can lead to a delay in taking the critical action necessary, even though, as we know they're unproven and uncosted and may not actually help us that much in the end. Thank you very much.
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