Bonn Climate Talks Turn to Discussion of Carbon Capture and Storage Technology

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By Eric J. Lyman

Oct. 21 — Carbon capture and storage, the technology that pumps greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels beneath the surface of the earth, was at the center of negotiations at the Bonn Climate Change Conference Oct. 21, though much of the work took place behind the scenes in small group meetings.

The technology is controversial within the United Nations climate change process because it is untested on a large scale and can act as an incentive for countries to delay the move away from fossil fuels.

In theory, however, carbon capture and storage can be a major factor in the effort to keep greenhouse gases low enough to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Canada said Oct. 21 that a low price for carbon dioxide in carbon markets is hindering development of CCS technologies, but a Canadian delegate told a special roundtable on the topic that the country—criticized for widespread use of high-polluting oil sands and fracking projects—intends to be a leader in the use of carbon capture and storage.

Taking Stock

UN officials told Bloomberg BNA that they hoped the talks made significant progress in two key areas: finding ways to slow the growth worldwide of greenhouse gas emissions before the 2015 global climate agreement goes into effect in 2020, and creating rules to govern voluntary pledges called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), that countries are expected to have in place no later than March 2015.

The talks run Oct. 20–25. The Oct. 22 session took stock to gauge progress.

“What we find out Wednesday won’t guarantee these talks will be a success, but if little progress is shown it might guarantee they won’t be,” a delegate from Belgium told Bloomberg BNA, asking not to be further identified.

If a strategy for pre-2020 emissions and a rulebook for INDCs are at least partially developed in Bonn, that would leave work on the text of the 2015 agreement for the December climate summit in Lima, Peru.

Second Commitment Period for Kyoto

Additionally, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change head Christiana Figueres has said she hoped the talks in Bonn also would be the forum for countries to ratify the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, which runs from the 2012 end of the first commitment period until the 2020 agreement goes into force. It is one of the main mechanisms for ratcheting down emissions before 2020.

The second commitment period requires action from only a handful of industrialized countries dominating the 28 members of the European Union, but many countries have shied away from using the political capital necessary to pass the document with what is likely to be a big battle looming to negotiate the 2015 agreement negotiated and ratify it.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Bonn at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com