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Engaging Communities in Carbon Capture and Storage Projects

This piece originally appeared as the Foreword to Guidelines for Community Engagement in Carbon Dioxide Capture, Transport, and Storage Projects.

There is no single quick fix or technological silver bullet that will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are altering the Earth’s climate. Rather, a range of technologies and strategies will need to be employed to keep global temperature rise below the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit danger threshold identified by scientists.

Some of these solutions (think energy efficiency or wind and solar power) are tried and tested, but need scaling up; others are emerging and not yet commercially available, but offer great potential. Carbon dioxide capture and storage or CCS falls into the latter group. A suite of technologies that together can be used to sequester carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions from power stations and other major industrial sources, CCS is now moving from demonstration projects to commercial-scale pilots.

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the Report

Most credible analyses project a key role for CCS as a bridging technology between today’s fossil fuel–based global economy and the low carbon societies of tomorrow. To be effective in helping contain global emissions, however, CCS deployment would need to accelerate dramatically over the next three decades, which is where community engagement, the subject of this report, comes in.

As an emerging technology which involves injecting carbon dioxide into geologic formations, CCS has drawn wary reactions from some communities around the world where demonstration projects have been sited or proposed. Too often, the reaction from regulators, project developers and local authorities has been to view public opinion and local communities as a barrier to technology deployment. This report takes the opposite tack: it starts from the position that project developers and regulators should treat host communities as partners whose questions and concerns can improve the project and who should be consulted in the design, development and operation of CCS projects on their doorstep.

To be clear, this report does not aim to make a case for or against CCS. Instead, it outlines how local communities can help shape decisionmaking around CCS projects, and in so doing build wider public support for the emerging technology.

Too often, the reaction from regulators, project developers and local authorities has been to view public opinion and local communities as a barrier to technology deployment. This report takes the opposite tack.

The report builds on WRI’s previous consensus-building stakeholder effort, which resulted in the publication of the Guidelines for Carbon Dioxide Capture, Transport, and Storage, a technical guide for CCS projects. This complementary publication is the product of the collective experience and best thinking of more than 90 experts and stakeholders involved in CCS across the world, including academics, project developers, regulators, nongovernmental organizations and community groups.

The resulting conclusions are intended to serve as international guidelines for regulators, local decisionmakers (including community leaders, citizens, local advocacy groups, and landowners) and project developers as they plan and seek to implement CCS projects. The guidelines will be road tested with CCS projects in the field, and the experience gained integrated into a revised edition of globally-applicable best practices.

Whether CCS will be viable at commercial scale is yet to be proven. Without public buy-in, however, the chances are slim that the technology will be deployed at meaningful scales for climate change mitigation. Transparency and consultation are prerequisites for this buy-in. WRI hopes this report will provide a basis for best practice engagement on CCS projects worldwide, which will help enable the public to judge the technology on its own merits.

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