Environmental Audit Committee argues that net zero target loophole could undermine efforts to encourage heavy industries to prioritise cutting emissions
Government greenhouse gas targets offer heavy emitters “a free pass” that could undermine efforts to cut emissions from industrial sites and accelerate the roll out of carbon capture and hydrogen technologies, according to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) of MPs.
The committee today revealed it has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to raise concerns over the way current emissions targets for greenhouse gas reductions and removals are combined, meaning some industrial firms could fail to take steps to cut their direct emissions and instead gamble that future negative emission technologies (NETs) could provide an alternative means for them to meet their net zero emissions goals.
The EAC said it recognised the value in using NETs in industries such as steel and cement, where options to decarbonise remain limited. But it warned the government is failing to take swift enough action to roll out such technologies, with both bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture (DAC) technologies both in their infancy.
As such, the EAC has today called on the government to review its approach and consider introducing clearer targets that could serve to drive investment in technologies that can cut industrial emissions at source.
EAC Chair, Philip Dunne, said that government thinking on negative emissions technologies needed to be “developed” as a matter of urgency.
“Presently there is little in terms of incentive, and very little in terms of any government direction or clarity,” he said. “The fact that removal and reduction targets are combined enables many sectors averse or unable to cut emissions to dodge their responsibilities. Transparency and accountability must be improved by separating these targets out and highlighting the work that needs to be done.”
MPs on the committee said that particular clarity is urgently needed around government policy on developing BECCS, amid concerns the approach could result in widespread land use change which in turn could undermine efforts to enhance biodiversity. They are pressing for the risk to be addressed in the government’s forthcoming Biomass Strategy to ensure BECCS development is robustly monitored and any risks are mitigated.
The EAC’s intervention comes just a few days after the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) last week published its CCUS Delivery Plan 2035 and set out a 10 point plan for ensuring long-awaited commercial CCS projects are actually delivered over the coming decade.
The CCSA said the UK had a matter of months left to bring carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to a commercial stage of readiness and respond to skills shortages across the fledgling industry, if carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technologies are to help the country hit its net zero targets as planned.
Dunne similarly warned the nascent NETs sector was “raring to go as soon as the government offers direction and clarity, but with so many unknowns we can understand why deployment of NETs in the UK is yet to gain traction”.
BusinessGreen has approached the government for comment.