Europe to offer China help in burying CO2 emissions

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe will next week start moves to help China and India develop technology to trap and bury carbon dioxide underground in the fight against global warming, according to a draft European Commission document.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), a process of burying harmful gases, is seen by some as a potential silver bullet to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants, which are multiplying rapidly worldwide and threaten to heat the atmosphere to dangerous levels.

The European Union will start a consultation process on how finance and technology should be delivered to China and later India. This could be critical in securing their commitment to a new global deal on climate change at talks in Copenhagen in December.

“China builds, every year, as much coal-fired power plant as the entire UK generating capacity,” said a report prepared for consultations with industry and seen by Reuters on Friday.

“Unless a way can be found of making this climate-compatible, we can never meet our climate objectives, regardless of what action we take in Europe,” it added.

While the technologies exist, utilities are reluctant to build CCS power stations without public funding because the CCS component adds over $1 billion to the cost of each plant.


“A project of this size has never been done before,” said Eric Drosin, a spokesman for ZEP, a European coalition of industry, scientists and those environmentalists that back CCS.

“Knowledge sharing is crucial to the rapid deployment of CCS in China,” he added. “We are willing to share all information except that which is covered by intellectual property rights.”

Many environmentalists oppose spending public money on the technology, saying it is untested and utilities already make massive profits while driving the planet toward irreversible climate damage.

“Rather than trying to persuade China to bet on a technology that might not even work...the EU should help China invest in renewables and efficiency and leapfrog the fossil fuel-based energy model of the West,” said Greenpeace campaigner Frauke Thies.

The Commission’s EU-China Near Zero Emissions Coal (NZEC) proposal will initially tap into about 60 million euros ($84 million) of existing EU development funding, but will also seek support from industry and taxpayers.

“It is likely that the CCS component of the Chinese NZEC demonstration project alone will cost in total around 300 million euros,” said the report.

“We will seek to garner financial support from member states for this initiative, which in the first instance will affect China, then India, South Africa, OPEC and other emerging economies and developing countries,” it added.

In 2050, almost 60 percent of CO2 emissions from the power sector are projected to be captured, compared to virtually none today and almost 30 percent in 2030, said the report.

Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Keiron Henderson