Top UK climate scientist: carbon capture essential for developing world

One of Britain’s top climate scientists says that developing countries can deliver on climate commitments and eliminate poverty through the use of carbon capture technology.

Speaking in Bangladesh – a country where 60 million people still live without electricity – Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at Oxford, said that carbon capture is the “technology Bangladesh is going to need in the long-term to exploit [its] coal reserves without putting CO2 into the atmosphere.”

Twenty-four countries responsible for more than half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have written continued coal use into their nationally determined contributions as part of the Paris Agreement. Some, like Nigeria and Ghana, have asked the developed world for assistance in gaining access to the latest “clean coal” technologies.

Professor Allen said that CCS “works, it just costs money”, and argues that it’s the responsibility of the richest countries to make carbon capture more widely available.

A recent report from the influential Energy Transitions Commission took the same view, stating that there needs to be “strong global support” for the deployment for carbon capture in poor countries where fossil fuels are the only feasible way of delivering mass-electrification.

Douglas Hollett, a former principal deputy assistant secretary at the US Office of Fossil Energy, which oversees CCS research, agrees.

“The world’s going to be continuing to burn a lot of coal for a long time,” he said. “That’s what makes CCUS even more vital on a worldwide scale — and not just capturing, but also using and storing or sequestering that CO2.”

All of this shows how our aid policy has huge potential to support UK jobs and science. Britain is a world leader in carbon capture technology. By backing this sector now, we can support those high-tech jobs in Britain, while providing the tech that developing countries need to use their own natural resources to lift their citizens out of poverty.