Professor Rebecca Willis, Lancaster University: Removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere


Rebecca Willis: Hello and welcome to another online session. Today we're going to be looking at ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. This is something that we've talked about through the course of the assembly, but we haven't focused on it directly. So I'm going to recap why we need greenhouse gas removals, and then tell you about the speakers you'll hear from. Moving on to slide two. So why do we need to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere? You might remember this diagram. As you know, over the next 30 years we need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by a very large amount. By, for example, changing the way we travel the way we generate electricity and how we heat our homes. It's far better and cheaper to reduce the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere than to remove it once it's there. We need to get as close to zero as we can. There will always be some greenhouse gas emissions that we can't avoid. For example, there are currently no alternatives to carbon emitting plane engines, and some greenhouse gas emissions from farming are very hard to avoid. So for those emissions that we can't avoid, we need to take the same amount of emissions out of the atmosphere. And today we're going to be talking in more detail about the different ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and then we're going to ask you to discuss, and decide your recommendations. Moving on to slide three. First of all, you're going to hear from Chris who heads up the Committee on Climate Change which advises government. Chris is also an expert lead for the assembly. He'll be speaking as an informant, explaining the six main ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and talking about the advantages on disadvantages of each. Those six ways are, firstly, forests and better forest management; secondly, peatlands and wetlands; thirdly, enhancing the storage of carbon in soil; fourthly, using wood in construction; fifthly, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, often called BECCS, and, lastly, director capture and carbon storage. I'm not going to explain any of those now, I'll leave that to Chris. But we haven't included every possible greenhouse gas removing technology, we've focused on the ones most likely to make a significant contribution to the UK's target. Moving on to slide four. After that, you'll hear two differing views on which of the methods Chris outlined the best, and how much we should rely on greenhouse gas removals. These speakers are both speaking as advocates. They are Dr Douglas Parr from Greenpeace, and Bill Spence who's independent. Again, I'll leave them to explain their views rather than second guessing them. Moving on to slide five. Lastly, you'll hear from Jim Watson, another of our expert leads. He's going to tell you about some of the decisions that the assembly has already made on the results of some of the votes you cast on our last weekend in Birmingham. This is because there are some areas have been discussed by the assembly where greenhouse gas removals will be required. These are emissions from air travel and emissions from food farming and land use. Jim will talk about the decisions you've already made and what that means for the decisions you might make now about greenhouse gas removals. For those of you who aren't assembly members but are listening in on the live stream, I'm afraid we can't live stream Jim's talk as we're not releasing the outcomes of the votes just yet. Assembly members, this afternoon you'll get a chance to question Chris, Doug and Bill. Then tomorrow, you'll discuss what you've heard in smaller groups before voting. In the votes, you'll be asked how much you agree or disagree for each of these ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere should be part of how the UK gets to Net Zero, and you'll be asked to rank them in order of preference. There will also be space, if you want to, to add any other views you have on removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere that you'd like us to capture for the assembly report. So that's all from me, and I'll hand back to Sarah now. Thanks.

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