Working with communities to meet global emissions reduction targets

Tuesday 30 August 2022

From left to right: Dr Kostas Stavrianakis, Professor Zoe Morrison and Dr Jacob Nielsen
The latest step in a €13 million Carbon-Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) project recommends that European organisations involve local communities more closely to reach climate-neutral targets are to be reached.

The Scottish Government and the EU have set clear targets to curb climate change: net-zero emissions by 2045 and a climate-neutral industry by 2050, respectively. For this to happen, several crucial industries across Europe need to capture, utilise or store the CO2 released from industrial processes.

Newly released research from Professor Zoe Morrison, Dr Jacob Nielsen, and Dr Kostas Stavrianakis at Robert Gordon University (RGU)—reviewing previous CCUS projects and their public reception across Europe—provides recommendations through the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

They said: “Since the 1990s, CCUS technologies have received increased attention from political, industrial, and research-focused stakeholders who envision that these technologies could play a crucial part in addressing climate change. However, even with their combined expertise climate scientists, politicians, and activist organisations cannot fully understand the potential benefits and risks for the communities most impacted by these projects.

“We need to have a more inclusive approach to carbon emissions mitigation, taking into account everyone’s views, not just the views of people who already have positions of influence.”

The review and funding are part of a worldwide carbon-capture technology development project, ConsenCUS, which aims to provide an industrial roadmap to a net-zero carbon future. It involves 120 cross-disciplinary researchers from seven countries across Europe, North America, and Asia. RGU gained more than £800,000 from the €13 million provided to ConsenCUS in funding from Horizon 2020—an EU research and innovation funding programme.

Alongside RGU, the Aberdeen-based Net Zero Technology Centre is also a member of the ConsenCUS consortium. The NZTC team, led by Ildiko Kiss is using their industry partnerships and technology insights to supply a technological and costing analysis to support the implementation of CO2 capture from refineries to bolster the consortium ‘s research.

CCUS technologies capture CO2 at the point of emission, and the captured CO2 can be used to produce various materials or stored underground, removing the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.

However, CCUS projects have been slow to materialise even though the component processes already exist. As a result, according to 2019 estimations, Paris Agreement countries have only captured 1% of the emissions needed to meet the 2030 target of 2°C.

The team highlights: “Although communities may not have expert knowledge about climate change, they have a unique insight into the problems industrial-scale pollution can cause and the impact decarbonisation projects can have on their everyday life. This community-based knowledge is essential to enhance our understanding of how best to create and accelerate reduced carbon and carbon-neutral societies.

“We’re using our review to inform a more collaborative, community-centric approach to fundamentally shape the direction of the community aspects of the ConsenCUS project.”

The research makes three recommendations to increase the deployment of CCUS technologies among communities: increase the transparency of CCUS projects for open decision making and reduced concern; acknowledge the uncertainties; and encourage collaboration with local communities to avoid harm and increase social learning and acceptance.

The research team at RGU is happy to share its experience with other organisations and groups facing similar challenges and work more extensively with communities that have effectively reduced carbon emissions.

The full recommendations and research output can be read without charge via the open access journal PLOS ONE.


Cookie Consent