Direct air capture of CO2 — what’s it got to do with energy policy?
Everything, really — and this is a problem, because most people who think about energy policy see air-capture as a futuristic and largely hypothetical distraction. But the cumulative impact of carbon dioxide emissions means there is a high chance that much of the CO2 generated by fossil energy production today will need to be scrubbed back out of the atmosphere in the future if our long-term climate goals are to be met. So the development of air-capture is implicit in almost all ambitious climate mitigation scenarios, and no-one has worked out how it will happen, and most important of all, how it will be paid for. We will present modelling results that indicate that traditional carbon pricing mechanisms are very unlikely to build up a CO2-disposal industry on anything close to the speed and scale required, even in a country with relatively progressive climate policies and ample disposal resources like the UK. The only way of securing the resources for the development of large-scale air capture without the moral hazard of encouraging present-day emissions is to make large-scale CO2 disposal a licensing requirement of the continued extraction and sale of fossil fuels. Such a scheme would be surprisingly affordable in the near term, and have significant co-benefits for other aspects of energy policy.
Myles Allen will be joined by Matthew Ives from INET.