Why Brussels likes CCS but does not like trees

In its package of proposed legislation, issued on 23rd January 2008, aimed at meeting targets for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions, the European Commission proposed a directive on the geological storage of carbon dioxide, otherwise known as Carbon Capture and Storage or CCS. Under this directive, installations in EU ETS will be able to get credit for CO2 pumped back under ground and stored there.

At the same time, the Commission categorically rejects the idea of using credits from carbon sinks such as forestry. The intelligentsia of Brussels argues that LULUCF cannot physically deliver permanent reductions1. They also put about several other falsehoods to discredit forestry.

There is an interesting asymmetry here.

CCS technology is rather new. It has never been proven on a large scale. In comparison tree technology is rather older. In fact the first trees appeared on the planet about 500 million years ago. Since then they have been capturing and storing carbon dioxide quietly and effectively.

So the European Commission is happy to wave on a brand-new, unproven technology. And it rejects out of hand a technology with a 500 million year track record.

What could be behind this odd conclusion?

The obvious answer is vested interests. Consider the immense power of plump Germans in glinting, rimless spectacles, who work for megalithic power companies; consider the flickering, forked tongues of American oil lobbyists. And now compare those lobbies with the honest woodman. The lumberjack is a quiet, retiring fellow. He won’t be seen in the corridors of power in his checked shirt. Not for him the tête-á-tête in the clamour of a sophisticated wine bar in Brussels. So forestry does not stand a chance.

If only it were so simple. Sadly, there is something more sinister afoot. The masters of Brussels are people who still believe in the glory of vast empires. They live in a dream of immense, immeasurable constructs of steel and concrete, and their sole faith is in the redeeming power of Technology. They compensate for their own limitations by constructing a fantasy world which they can control perfectly through Technology. Hence they put CCS before forestry, they put genetic modification before organic farming, and they still idly fantasize about space travel rather than getting people to ride bikes. Like rabbits dazzled in the headlights of a car, or children enchanted by Christmas lights, these technocrats draw both comfort and wonder from the world of technology.

Of course CCS should be encouraged – we need to grasp at all and any solutions to address climate change. With one proviso – those companies which take credit for CCS units should put down an insurance bond, so that if the technology turns out not to be so safe as Brussels would like us to think it is, then the installation can obtain the funds to purchase allowances in the market to make up their shortfall.

But if we encourage CCS then by the same token we should encourage, with as much enthusiasm, the use of natural carbon sinks, i.e. trees. And if there are still limitations in the technology of measuring and reporting the quantities of CO2 captured by trees, is that really much different from the uncertainties which surround CCS?

The Commission’s position is inconsistent, founded on emotion, on ignorance and on an insidious bias towards technological fantasy. This should be corrected.


1. http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/08/35&format;=HTML&aged;=0&language;=EN&guiLanguage;=en

This entry was posted in Climate change policy. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Why Brussels likes CCS but does not like trees

  1. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations James, I absolutely agree with You.

    Best Regards


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.