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Tyndall Manchester

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Two new papers from the Tyndall Centre look at aspects of feasibility of carbon dioxide removal using biomass energy with carbon capture and storage and afforestation

11 June 2020

Greenhouse gas removal technologies and practices are essential to bring emissions to net zero and limit global warming to 1.5 °C.

To achieve this, the majority of integrated assessment models (IAMs), that generate future emissions scenarios and inform the international policy process, use large-scale afforestation and biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The FABGGR project (Feasibility of afforestation and BECCS for greenhouse gas removal)  is exploring the feasibility of these technologies and practices, which to date has been considered primarily from a relatively narrow techno-economic or biophysical perspective. These two papers contribute to opening up feasibility analyses to encompass a wider set of issues and perspectives and support responsible assessment and development approaches, advocating complementary methods to IAMs.

The first paper (Waller et al) reviews the international peer-reviewed literature pertaining to the social and political dimensions of large-scale GGR, with a specific focus on biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and afforestation / reforestation (AR). The paper identifies six key social and political dimensions of GGR feasibility, namely: economics and incentives; innovation; societal engagement; governance, regulation and politics; complexity and uncertainty; ethics, equity and justice. Further analysis of the literature reveals three contested ways in which BECCS and AR and their feasibility are being framed in the literature: (i) a techno-economic framing; (ii) a social and political acceptability framing; and (iii) a responsible development framing. While the first two are already predominant in the literature, the third will, and indeed should, become increasingly pertinent. Understanding the third requires new ways of mapping and accounting for the social and political dimensions of feasibility if the assessment, innovation and governance of GGR in relation to alternative climate futures is to be responsibly undertaken.

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In the second paper, Forster et al describe an expert mapping process working with stakeholders from across business and industry, non-governmental organisations and policy makers, spanning expertise in bioenergy, forestry, CCS and climate change. The findings present important societal and governance aspects of feasibility that are currently under-represented, specifically issues around real-world complexity, competing human needs, justice and ethics. 

Greenhouse gas removal approaches are central to delivering on 1.5°C climate goals, but responsible assessment and development approaches must consider complex social and political dimensions.

Read the full papers at the links below:

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