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Fossils fuels at the heart of the planetary environmental crisis: UN experts
by OHCHR, Amnesty, HRW, agencies
Nov. 2023
As COP28 begins, UN human rights experts urged States to accelerate the just and equitable phase out of fossil fuels, warning about the immense magnitude of their negative human rights impacts. They issued the following statement:
“Fossil fuels are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which have unequivocally caused the climate crisis.
This year records were broken with global CO2-equivalent emissions reaching 57.4 gigatons and close to 90 days with global temperature increases exceeding 1.5°C in recent months, placing the Paris Agreement commitment of limiting warming to 1.5°C in grave jeopardy.
While coal, oil and gas literally fuel the climate emergency, which is already preventing the full enjoyment of a range of human rights with disproportionate impacts on certain groups and communities, they also directly contribute to biodiversity loss, toxic pollution and water scarcity.
In fact, fossil fuels are at the heart of the planetary ecological crisis and their tremendous negative impacts on human rights are felt throughout their life cycle, from exploration and extraction to combustion and contamination.
Fossil fuels exploitation affects the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation, education, an adequate standard of living, cultural rights, and a clean, healthy and sustainable environment with marginalised and vulnerable communities bearing the brunt of the consequences.
To address the planetary crisis and tackle the wide range of fossil fuels negative human rights impacts, States must urgently decarbonise and detoxify. Wealthy States and high emitters should lead the phase out of fossil fuels, beginning with avoiding new investments and terminating fossil fuel subsidies. They should also provide financial and other technical support to developing countries to ensure a just transition to a zero-carbon economy.
To successfully phase out fossil fuels will require strong international cooperation. States must fulfil their obligations to regulate the private sector and State-owned enterprises, to monitor compliance and enforce rules.
This requires addressing barriers to climate action, including greenwashing, undue political influence, strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), tax evasion and avoidance, business models not fit for the 21st century, and investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms that empower foreign investors to block or raise the cost of climate action.
Around the world, environmental human rights defenders, Indigenous Peoples and local communities have faced rights violations while raising concerns about fossil fuels. Some have been subjected to threats, harassment, intimidation, lawsuits, violence and criminalisation as a result of their work.
Given the disproportionate political influence of the fossil fuel industry, States should protect climate action policies from the commercial and vested interests of the fossil fuel industry, following the powerful precedent set by the World Health Organization Convention on Tobacco Control.
Access to environmental information, public participation and access to justice must be guaranteed to ensure the full realisation of human rights, including the right to a healthy environment, in all contexts. Science-based information related to the climate crisis, including the dangers of carbon removal technologies and the flaws of forest-based carbon offsets, should be made easily accessible.
States must place human rights at the heart of all climate action, including mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage. This is an obligation for States, not an option.”
Nov. 2023
Agreement at COP28 to phase out fossil fuels is vital to prevent climate & human rights catastrophe. (Amnesty International)
An agreement at the COP28 summit to end the production and use of fossil fuels is vital to prevent a global climate catastrophe and stop an unprecedented human rights crisis which threatens the rights of billions of people from escalating, Amnesty International said today.
In a briefing titled, Fatal Fuels, Amnesty International calls for parties at COP28, which starts later this month, to agree to a full, fair, fast and funded phase out of fossil fuels and a human rights compliant transition to renewable power which facilitates access to energy for all.
“For decades the fossil fuel industry has spread disinformation about the climate crisis. The truth is that fossil fuels are endangering our future by wreaking havoc on the global climate and creating a human rights crisis of unprecedented scale,” said Candy Ofime, Amnesty International’s Legal Advisor on Climate Justice.
“If new fossil fuel projects go ahead we will fail to limit global warming this century to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and stave off catastrophic climate damage. COP28 is the time for states to agree to move beyond the fossil fuel era and leave behind its shameful record of climate damage and human rights abuses.
“The fossil fuel industry generates enormous wealth for relatively few corporate actors and states, which have a vested interest in blocking a just transition to renewable energy, and silencing opponents. These efforts endanger everyone’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
“Fossil fuels are finite and trying to extract every last drop of oil, cubic foot of fossil gas, or tonne of coal prolongs and worsens the enormous damage they have already caused. Alternatives are at hand and renewable energy output is growing fast but much more investment is needed. COP28 must set a fast and equitable course for a sustainable future free of fossil fuels.”
The extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and the resultant accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, notably carbon dioxide, is the primary cause of global heating which is making extreme weather events such as storms, drought and floods more frequent and intense.
This is leading to loss of life, damage to property and infrastructure, wrecked livelihoods, disrupted ecosystems and reduced biodiversity, failed harvests and food scarcity, intensified competition for resources, and conflict and displacement, which are all associated with a range of human rights abuses.
Air pollution directly related to the combustion of fossil fuels contributed to 1.2 million deaths in 2020. Communities living near fossil fuel facilities are often directly harmed by pollutants known to cause respiratory illnesses, adverse pregnancy outcomes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Coal mining and fracking generate toxic waste that can contaminate water sources. Gas flaring releases toxic air pollutants. People living in “sacrifice zones” most exposed to these harms are often already subject to intersecting forms of discrimination.
Exploration, production and transportation of fossil fuels often entails devastating pollution and environmental degradation.
Amnesty International has for decades documented oil spills and the resultant harms suffered by communities in the Niger Delta where Shell and other companies have undermined local communities’ human rights to an adequate standard of living, clean water, and health, and denied them effective remedies.
Indigenous peoples are disproportionately impacted because much of the planet’s remaining fossil fuel resources are situated under their ancestral land, and exploitative companies often infringe on these communities’ rights to information, public participation and free, prior and informed consent.
For example, Amnesty International has shown how Adivasi communities in India affected by coal mining are rarely properly consulted before their land is acquired, ecosystems decimated and livelihoods jeopardized.
The right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment was recognized by the UN Human Rights Council in 2021 and the UN General Assembly in 2022 and is enshrined in the national constitutions of more than 100 countries. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights explicitly recognize that companies have a responsibility to “do no harm”.
Environmental human rights defenders, including those opposed to the production and use of fossil fuels, have increasingly been targeted and even killed for their advocacy in recent years. Some fossil fuel companies have sought to silence climate defenders through the use of so-called “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPPs).
Fossil fuel companies have funded think tanks to draft and propose laws to clamp down on or criminalize climate and environmental protesters. Amnesty International campaigns to protect the right to protest, and the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Many fossil fuel companies seek to shape public opinion through greenwashing and disinformation, evade regulation through the lobbying of lawmakers and regulators, and influence multilateral forums such as COPs, which can delay states’ actions to address the climate crisis. COP28 is chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, the chief executive of the UAE’s state oil company, which is a clear conflict of interests.
Fatal Fuels recommends that all currently untapped fossil fuel resources remain in the ground forever. Industrialized and other high greenhouse gas emitting countries in the G20, as well as high income fossil fuel producing states, must agree to quickly lead the way by stopping the expansion of oil, gas and coal production. Others must then follow. In addition, there must be a significant reduction in the extraction of fossil fuels for non-energy purposes, such as the manufacturing of plastics.
The vast subsidies states spend supporting fossil fuel use and production must end through a process which ensures there are adequate social protections in place to shield the poorest and most marginalized.
Fossil fuel and energy companies cannot be allowed to rely on unproven technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, which their lobbyists frequently promote, to delay change. They should refrain from lobbying lawmakers, and greenwashing, which makes it more difficult for the public to access accurate information about climate science.
Financial institutions must cease investing in new activities that drive fossil fuel expansion, and phase out existing funding on a timeframe aligned with the target agreed internationally to keep global warming to below 1.5°C this century.
Developed countries, historically the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, need to deliver on their commitments to provide adequate climate finance to developing states to achieve an equitable and human rights-consistent phase out of existing fossil fuel production globally, facilitating a just transition to renewable sources of power.
* The COP28 climate summit runs from 30 November to 12 December and is being held in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers.
Nov. 2023
Why is the climate crisis also a human rights crisis? (Human Rights Watch)
COP28, the 28th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, will bring together state parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as thousands of experts, journalists, climate activists, community members, and representatives from businesses and nongovernmental groups. It is a forum for states to discuss how to confront the climate crisis that is taking a growing toll on human rights around the globe.
Despite growing urgency, the meetings have largely failed to result in the necessary cuts in greenhouse gas emissions or to adequately support a transition to renewable energy, protecting those hardest hit by floods, drought, hurricanes, and other climate-related disasters.
Why is the climate crisis also a human rights crisis?
The right to live in a healthy environment is a human right that has been recognized around the world. The climate crisis also affects many human rights, including the right to life and the rights to housing, food, and water.
From burning forests, to sweltering cities, to parched farmlands, to storm-battered coasts, the climate crisis is taking a mounting toll on lives and livelihoods around the globe. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, caused primarily by burning fossil fuels, trap heat with profound consequences. Harm is already being felt, and the speed and scale will increase exponentially and erratically for the foreseeable future.
About 3.5 billion people already live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently warned. By 2050, more than a billion people living on small islands and in low-lying coastal communities and settlements are projected to be at risk from sea level rise and extreme weather.
Climate change aggravates existing social and economic inequalities. Both acute disasters and longer-term changes like multi-year droughts are far worse for low-income and marginalized communities that governments have already failed to protect.
Individuals with intersecting marginalized identities and vulnerabilities can have an even greater chance of dying, increasing poverty, or losing important resources because of climate change. Those affected include people with low incomes, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, older people, people with disabilities, women and pregnant people, children, and migrant workers. These groups are also most at risk of being left behind when disasters occur. Governments should budget to protect people’s human rights from climate harm.
Yet, the capacity of low- and middle-income governments to fulfill the rights of the most at-risk populations could become severely strained and, in many places, broken.
Governments’ ability to confront the climate crisis will most likely depend, in large measure, on what governments are doing today to uphold the rights of those already experiencing the impact of climate change and to address the underlining industries and economic policies that cause it.
The climate crisis necessitates supporting non-fossil fuel-based economies and political systems that center ending economic marginalization, racism, ableism, ageism, misogyny, and other forms of discrimination.
What is at stake for human rights at COP28?
In March 2023, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science, confirmed that the world is warming at record levels and warned that governments are failing to take sufficient action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The panel urged governments to cut emissions by phasing out fossil fuels, halting deforestation, and scaling up renewable energy.
To fulfill their human rights obligation to address climate change, at this year’s COP, governments need to ensure a just and equitable transition to renewable energy and help people adapt to the impact of the climate crisis. They can do that by calling for the equitable and rights-respecting phasing out of all fossil fuels in the COP28 conclusions.
Governments at COP28 should make a commitment not to authorize new fossil fuel projects. In addition, they should end all forms of support, including subsidies and international finance, for oil, gas, and coal developments to rapidly reduce emissions and to limit the impacts of climate change.
Governments should also commit to upholding the rights of communities directly affected by fossil fuel operations, including the people working and living in and around sites of fossil fuel exploration, production, storage, transport, refining, use, and disposal.
Governments should ensure their participation and representation in decision-making on fossil fuel operations and climate change. It is particularly important to ensure participation of groups historically excluded, such as people with disabilities.
Two years ago at COP26 in Glasgow, governments made a commitment to phase down the use of coal. But last year, at COP27 in Egypt, a group of 81 countries made an ultimately unsuccessful push to include the phase out of all fossil fuels in the final text of the outcome document. The push was stymied by Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states ans fossil fuel exporting countries, the Guardian reported.
Why is a fossil fuel phase out necessary to realize human rights?
There is growing consensus, including from the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel that for governments to meet global climate targets there cannot be new oil, gas, or coal projects.
Burning of fossil fuels is the primary driver of the climate crisis, accounting for over 80 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, existing fossil fuel projects are already more than the climate can withstand to limit global warming to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius required to prevent a global climate collapse.
Nevertheless, governments continue to authorize – and subsidize – building fossil fuel infrastructure and poorly regulate existing operations. The fossil fuel industry deflects public and political pressure on its core operations, most recently by claiming that its operations can become “net zero.”
Why are robust regulations essential to ensure that carbon markets uphold human rights and support effective climate action, and which rules should be adopted at COP28?
COP28 should ensure the global carbon market contemplated under Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement is strictly regulated to uphold rights, support climate action, and provide a remedy for harm. These are vital issues given that state parties to the agreement, corporations, and other private entities are rapidly developing their presence in the market, even while safeguards in most countries range from inadequate to nonexistent.
Carbon markets trade in carbon credits, which are supposed to represent carbon dioxide that has been removed from, or prevented from being emitted into, the atmosphere by projects ranging from forest conservation to clean energy, among others. Many corporations and governments purchase carbon credits to claim they offset their own pollution.
Yet, many carbon credits traded in those markets do not actually represent permanently removed carbon or avoided emissions. These hot air credits undermine climate action when they are used to offset pollution, as no overall emissions reductions actually take place.


The science behind Carbon Capture and Storage technology doesn’t measure up
by IISD, Amnesty, HRW, CIEL, Lancet, agencies
28 Nov. 2023
Unpacking Carbon Capture and Storage: The Technology Behind the Promise, by Zachary Rempel, Laura Cameron, Olivier Bois von Kursk for the International Institute for Sustainable Development.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is the shiny toy in climate change mitigation spaces these days, expected to draw all eyes at COP28. The technology proposes to reduce emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from industrial processes and injecting it deep underground.
Many oil and gas producing countries, such as the US and Canada, are looking to CCS to reduce emissions from production, while coal-reliant nations such China and India are exploring the feasibility of fitting coal-fired power plants with the technology.
Despite the substantial interest that has been stirred up around the technology, many questions remain about its feasibility, persistently high costs, and track record to date. What is the current status of CCS technology and why doesn’t it live up to its reputation as a definitive solution?
What is CCS?
CCS technology aims to capture emissions at a large source, before they are released into the atmosphere. This is different from Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) which focuses on retroactively withdrawing CO2 already in the atmosphere through means such as planting trees or using direct air capture technologies.
When CCS is used in fossil fuel production, it aims to capture upstream emissions – those created during the extraction and processing of the fuels – but does not reduce the bulk of emissions that are produced downstream, when the fuel is burned.
It also requires significant amounts of energy to operate the CCS technology itself, leading to more emissions if that energy is from fossil fuels. In fact, critical analysis of CCS technology finds that CCS can in some cases produce more emissions than it sequesters.
Studies that try to show the promise of CCS technology often don’t include a full Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of the CCS process, thereby missing the full picture of the technology’s true inefficiency.
While CCS is currently one of the only means to address emissions in hard-to-abate sectors such as the cement industry, fossil fuel energy with CCS is outcompeted by renewable energy. CCS in the fossil fuel sector is proposed as a pathway to allow continued expansion of fossil fuel production.
Is CCS technologically feasible at scale?
CCS has developed at a snail’s pace over the past few decades. Despite decades in development, there are only 30 commercial CCS projects globally, capturing a total of around 42.5 MtCO2/year, or less than 0.2% of the necessary emissions reduction needed to close the emissions gap by 2030.
This falls dramatically short of the IEA’s previous projection that we would reach 300 MtCO2/year of storage by 2020. A majority of the 149 CCS projects that were projected to be storing carbon by 2020 globally have been either cancelled or put on an indefinite hold, because of incredibly high costs and technological challenges.
Is it possible to rapidly scale-up CCS in the fossil fuel sector? The IPCC assessed this potential, and found that there are big challenges associated with sequestering lots of CO2 (more than 3.8 GtCO2/year by 2050). In other words, the IPCC indicated that there are serious feasibility concerns over the large-scale deployment of CCS in the fossil fuel sector and that we ought to limit our expectations.
Despite this, many emissions reductions models still design scenarios with fossil fuel CCS playing a much larger role (up to 10GtCO2/year by 2050) to compensate for slower declines in fossil fuel production and consumption. But achieving these levels of carbon storage would imply building the equivalent of the world’s biggest current carbon capture facility – capturing about 7MtCO2/year – every week until 2050.
Moreover, the potential for safe geological storage of the CO2 underground might be more limited than expected. Analysis of financial, contractual, and institutional barriers of long-term CO2 sequestration indicates that global use of CCS technologies is unlikely to be able to store more than 5 GtCO2/year underground by 2050.
The big distances between the emitting facilities are located (where the carbon would be captured) and the appropriate geological repositories often constitute a barrier to implementation. Transporting the CO2 requires significant investment in pipelines and transportation infrastructure.
Currently, it is common for the fossil fuel industry to avoid the need for transportation by injecting the CO2 into ageing wells on-site, which in turn increases pressure and helps extract more oil through “enhanced oil recovery” (EOR). The irony is, CCS is supposed to help reduce emissions, and EOR ultimately generates more carbon emissions by producing more oil.
Is CCS Cost Competitive?
The costs of CCS vary depending on: the industrial process that it’s applied to and how concentrated the CO2 is; how far the CO2 is transported; and where it is stored. CO2 capture costs are projected to range from CAD 27–48/tCO2 to CAD 50–150/tCO2. But these costs estimates are mostly drawn from modelling; there are too few projects that have been operational long enough to give a good sense of long-term costs.
Despite decades of development of the technology, the costs of CCS in the oil and gas sector have been slow to fall. This is because the technology design is complex, with many different components, making innovation slow. It also needs to be highly customized for different applications; CCS in a refinery is much different than CCS in cement production, for instance. While technologies such as solar PV and batteries for electric vehicles have experienced dramatic cost reductions as they reached economies of scale, it’s unlikely that the same will happen for CCS.
Because of its high cost, CCS in the fossil fuel sector continues to rely heavily on government subsidies in order to be economically viable. At the same time, oil and gas companies globally are investing very little of their own money in CCS or renewable energy, spending less than 1% of their capital expenditures on clean energy investment in 2020.
In determining cost competitiveness for emissions reductions, CCS in the energy sector should be judged against alternative energies that can reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuels. The IPCC finds that CCS in the energy sector is among the most expensive and least effective mitigation technologies in the near-term.
Closer Look: CCS in Coal-fired Power Generation
As of November 2023, four coal-fired plants with CCS are operational worldwide: two in China, one in the United States, and one in Canada. The development of CCS technology for coal power has been particularly slow, with only one plant operational as of 2021.
China's two CCS facilities, launched in 2021 and 2023, capture a combined 0.65 Mtpa of CO2 annually. The Petra Nova plant in the United States, operational since 2016, was temporarily shut down in 2020 due to declining oil prices and reopened in September 2023. This facility, used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), has historically not achieved its target of 1.4 Mtpa of captured emissions.
Canada’s Boundary Dam CCS facility, operational since 2014 in Saskatchewan, had an original target to capture 90% of the plant’s emissions but captures only about 50% on average.
Collectively, these four CCS facilities represent billions of dollars of investment and capture less than 0.02% of the coal industry's total emissions. In India, the national government has not announced any policy support for CCS, but there is emerging interest in the technology from power producers.
Closer Look: CCS in Canada’s Oil and Gas Sector
Canada currently has seven operational CCS projects, mostly in the oil and gas sector. These projects capture only about 0.5% of the country's total emissions, and the majority of the carbon captured is used to enable further extraction through enhanced oil recovery.
Despite its limited efficacy, CCS is being touted as the central emissions reduction solution by Canadian oil and gas proponents such as the Pathways Alliance, and has received extensive financial support from governments in Canada. The federal government has committed at least CAD 9.1 billion, in addition to CAD 3.8 billion from the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan, with Alberta set to invest more. This level of investment outpaces support offered by the 2022 U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
This public investment in CCS is risky for taxpayers, and takes away from funds available to support other, more cost-effective emission reduction strategies. Moreover, investing in CCS for oil and gas prolongs production and reliance on the fuels, without addressing the vast majority of emissions that are created when those fuels are burned downstream. Not to mention that these supports for CCS in fossil fuel production constitute subsidies under the World Trade Organization’s definition and contradict Canada’s commitment to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
What role will fossil fuel CCS play in limiting warming to 1.5C?
In order to limit warming to 1.5C, the IPCC finds that the production of oil and gas needs to decline by 65% by 2050. IISD research further shows that selected IPCC 1.5C scenarios which only rely on feasible levels of CCS, indicate that the world should be producing 30% less oil and gas compared by 2030 compared to 2020 levels. Coal production needs to decline by nearly 80% already this decade to align with the 1.5C target.
These findings are echoed by the International Energy Agency's (IEA) Net Zero Emissions scenario which concludes that there is no room for any new fossil fuel extraction projects.
Extraction and use of fossil fuels from mines and fields that are already in operation or under development today is more than enough to meet global demand under 1.5C pathways; there is no need to develop any more oil and gas fields.
In addition to the IPCC scenarios, IISD analysis shows that 1.5C pathways from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), UNEP Production Gap Report, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and various other authoritative intergovernmental organizations and energy consultancies all feature such steep declines in oil and gas production that developing any fossil fuels extraction activities from new fields or mines would generate emissions in excess of what is necessary to limit warming to 1.5C.
Closer Look: CCS and the push for phase-out of “unabated” fossil fuel production at COP28
The topic of phasing out fossil fuels promises to be a central part of the discussion at COP 28 in Dubai. The European Union, among others, is calling for a phase out of ‘unabated’ fossil fuels. The language of ‘abatement’ leaves a loophole for continued use of fossil fuels as long as a technology to capture the emissions from production is used.
The technological and economic feasibility of CCS is central in the conversation around ‘abated’ production. Given the challenges that the technology has faced, limiting its use and efficacy to date, it is clear that CCS is not able to abate emissions from fossil fuels sufficiently. Given the absence of other deep and fully developed emissions reductions technologies, abated production is not possible.
Moreover, this loophole is being used to push for prolonging and expanding fossil fuel production and use, with the assumption that CCS and other emissions reductions technologies will suffice. This is problematic, given that the majority of emissions are produced at the end uses of fossil fuels which are not address through CCS. Countries are already planning to produce double the amount of fossil fuels as would be needed under a 1.5C scenario in 2030, exceeding expected global demand, a gap which CCS will not address.
Despite the hype, the science behind CCS technology doesn’t measure up. The technology is incredibly expensive, captures relatively minimal amounts of CO2, and is heavily reliant on large government subsidies. In the coal industry specifically, CCS has demonstrated a particularly poor performance, with a sluggish rollout that further underscores the inefficiency of the technology.
Worryingly, some fossil fuel companies have been trying to use CCS technology as a justification for a further expansion of production, which is incompatible with global climate targets.
Heavy reliance on CCS in the energy sector is misguided as renewable energy has seen dramatic cost reductions that make it more and more economical. Discussions of ‘abated’ fossil fuels at COP28 and beyond should take a closer look at the technology behind the promise.
Why Carbon Capture is Not a Climate Solution - Center for International Environmental Law
The world is confronting a climate emergency. Avoiding climate catastrophe requires immediate and dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are possible only with a significant investment of resources in proven mitigation measures, beginning with eliminating fossil fuel use and halting deforestation.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) will not address these core drivers of the climate crisis or meaningfully reduce GHG emissions, and should not distract from real climate solutions. CCS and CCUS technologies are not only unnecessary for the rapid transformation required to keep warming under 1.5°C, they delay that transformation, providing the fossil fuel industry with a license to continue polluting.
The unproven scalability of CCS technologies and their prohibitive costs mean they cannot play any significant role in the rapid reduction of global emissions necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C. Despite the existence of the technology for decades and billions of dollars in government subsidies to date, deployment of CCS at scale still faces insurmountable challenges of feasibility, effectiveness, and expense.
In 2021, the 1,500 member-organizations of Climate Action Network (CAN) International adopted a shared position statement that the largest network of climate organizations worldwide “does not consider currently envisioned CCS applications as proven sustainable climate solutions.” The organizations warned that CCS “risks distracting from the need to take concerted action across multiple sectors in the near-term to dramatically reduce emissions.”
Accordingly, CAN urged that “all government subsidies, loans, grants, tax credit, incentives, and financial support for fossil fuels and technologies that use or otherwise support the continued use of fossil fuels, including CCS, should be phased out as soon as possible.”
* The Universal Rights Network notes with concern that Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies were cited in a section of the most recent IPCC report.
"The key section of the IPCC report, which ignited the controversy, was fiercely fought over by scientists and governments up until the last moments before the document was finalised. The handful of mentions of CDR in the final 36-page summary for policymakers – which distils the key messages and is compiled by scientists alongside government representatives from any UN member that wants to take part – were only inserted after hours of desperate wrangling.
Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries were most insistent that CDR and CCS should be included and emphasised. In the end, nine references to CDR were left in the summary, and several more to CCS. “Saudi Arabia.. tried to take out references to renewable energy and tried to insist that references to carbon capture should be in there instead of, or at least as well as, renewables.”
But many scientists, campaigners and green experts are unhappy with the references. They fear that giving the impression there are viable options for removing carbon dioxide might engender a false sense of security. Most CDR technologies are unproven, are likely to be limited in scope, take years to develop and will cost large amounts of money.
Lili Fuhr, the director of the climate and energy programme at the Center for International Environmental Law, said: “We need to challenge the idea that we have to do less now, because we can do more later, with technofixes. This is a dangerous idea.”
Growing renewables must replace fossil fuels far quicker to curb climate crisis, warns WWF
WWF responds to the IEA’s annual market report on renewables - Renewables 2023 - which shows that cleaner sources of energy are being rolled out faster than any other time in recent decades. The world added 50% more renewable capacity in 2023 than it did in the previous year, with solar PV accounting for three-quarters of additions worldwide.
However, the world is not yet on track to triple renewable capacity by 2030, which was agreed at COP28.
Dean Cooper, WWF Global Energy Lead, said: “Renewable energy generation is increasing fast but not fast enough. We will not avert climate catastrophe while fossil fuels continue to be burned. We must phase out coal, oil and gas and replace them with cleaner and cheaper renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.”
“Countries agreeing to ‘transition away from fossil fuels’ and to triple renewable energy generation at the UN COP28 climate talks was significant. Those who want to see a livable planet should increase pressure on their government to convert words into action by demanding they urgently transform their energy systems. That means no delays and no loopholes. It must involve the full phase out of all fossil fuels and a move to 100% renewable energy.”
“Dangerous distractions, such as large-scale carbon capture utilization and storage and so-called ‘transitional fuels’, are no replacement for the massive scaling-up of proven and affordable renewable energy technology. The sooner and more decisively we act, the sooner people and nature can reap the benefits of a cleaner, safer and more stable future, including cost savings, new jobs, cleaner air, and the recovery of nature.”


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