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CCS at Cancun: Draft Decision Reflects Careful Consideration of Technology

A new draft decision on carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) at COP-16 could be a step towards a larger agreement.

Discussions on whether or not CO2 capture and storage (CCS) can be included under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) have been underway since COP-10 in 2005. A decision is often elevated, and yet ultimately postponed, with Parties’ positions on support or opposition seeming immobile. Here at COP-16, on December 4th, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA) proposed a draft decision that reflects an evolution in thinking on the issue, and perhaps a step towards agreement. To take effect, this draft would need to be adopted by the COP next week.

The draft outlines two options:

  • Option 1: CCS is eligible as a project activity under the CDM, provided that issues are resolved. Under this scenario, the details for such resolution would be discussed at the next SBSTA meeting with planned input from Parties, Observers, and technical experts on the detail.

  • Option 2: CCS is not eligible as a project activity under the CDM, unless the issues are resolved by the COP.

Previous decisions on this issue have simply listed concerns, framing the decision in a “yes” or “no” framework. The options drafted at COP-16 provide a new context that both respects the concerns and establishes a process for resolving them. Last week WRI released a report on CCS in the UNFCCC which drew from past research and provided recommendations for both the UNFCCC and national governments to establish an environment that would enable CCS, but only where it can be done safely. This includes resolving the concerns that have been raised by Parties regarding project activity boundaries, liability, "measurement, reporting, and verification" (MRV), environmental impacts, safety and long-term permanence. One of the recommendations in our report was that the Parties to the UNFCCC should decide whether and when CCS projects are acceptable in the different mechanisms and approaches.

The Kyoto Protocol’s CDM is just one of the UNFCCC bodies that may influence the eventual deployment of mitigation technologies, and there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the form and functions of future bodies. A decision on the CCS in the CDM question at COP-16 would be a first step towards broader clarity.

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