CCC report shows that carbon budgets will be difficult to achieve without bioenergy or CCS – 7 Dec 2011

The review concludes that a 10% share of bioenergy in total energy could be required to meet the UK’s 2050 emissions target, compared to the current share of 2%. Bioenergy would ideally be used with CCS, which would allow for the removal of carbon from the atmosphere and for higher emissions reductions to be achieved.

In the report the Committee makes five key recommendations to the Government:

  1. Regulatory frameworks should be strengthened to ensure sustainability of bioenergy.
  2. CCS should be demonstrated as a matter of urgency.
  3. Government should regard targets on biofuels and biomass as flexible and should delay setting any new targets.
  4. Subsidies should not be provided to new large scale biomass power generation under the Renewables Obligation. Other low carbon options should be developed.

 

Bioenergy refers to combusting solid, liquid or gas fuels made from biomass feedstocks, which may or may not have undergone some form of conversion process. The Committee assessed the role of bioenergy both globally and in the UK and considered how it might best be applied to help meet climate targets.

The role of bioenergy in climate change mitigation is controversial and the review illustrates significant uncertainties around its use, in relation to the emissions reductions that can be achieved through using it and sustainability of supply. Taking these into account, the Committee assessed where bioenergy might best be used to support the UK in building a prosperous low-carbon economy, recommending different approaches across sectors including: power generation, industry, aviation, surface transport and smaller-scale local uses for bioenergy.

 

David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change said:

“The extent to which bioenergy should contribute to economy decarbonisation is highly controversial.

Our analysis shows that there is a crucial role for bioenergy in meeting carbon budgets, but within strict sustainability limits – and trade-offs with wider environmental and social objectives may be needed.

Strengthening of regulatory arrangements is required both here and in Europe to provide confidence that bioenergy used over the next decade is sustainable.

CCS should be demonstrated and demonstration projects commenced given the crucial role of this technology when used with bioenergy to meet carbon budgets.

The Government should change its approach to supporting new biomass power generation, which as proposed could raise costs with limited carbon benefits.”

The findings of the bioenergy review will feed in to the Government’s new bioenergy strategy and to the Committee’s advice on the inclusion of international aviation and shipping in carbon budgets which will be published in Spring 2012.