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‘A false solution’: 500+ groups urge US, Canadian leaders to reject carbon capture

“We need to ditch fossil fuels, not ‘fix’ them with technologies that are dangerous, costly, and unproven at scale”

Environment

Drax Power Station in Selby, England. The station is the largest power station in the UK. It provides about 5 percent of the country’s electricity and 12 percent of the country’s renewable power. Photo from Shutterstock.

More than 500 organizations on Monday pressured political leaders in the United States and Canada to reject carbon capture as “a false solution” that has become “a dangerous distraction driven by the same big polluters who created the climate emergency.”

The messages about carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) were not only shared as letters—directed at President Joe Biden, congressional leaders, US Department of Energy and White House officials, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and key Canadian ministers—but also published as full-page advertisements in the Washington Post and Ottawa’s Hill Times.

The groups’ ad makes the case that CCS “is unnecessary,” “does not work,” and “will do little to reduce industrial emissions.” The practice “makes dirty energy even more dangerous for frontline communities” and “imposes even more risks on communities from CO2 pipelines and storage.” It also benefits polluters, who use CSS “to justify business-as-usual operations.”

“Carbon capture is not a climate solution,” says the letter. “To the contrary, investing in carbon capture delays the needed transition away from fossil fuels and other combustible energy sources, and poses significant new environmental, health, and safety risks, particularly to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities already overburdened by industrial pollution, dispossession, and the impacts of climate change.”

In other words, the letter says, “deploying CCS at any climate-relevant scale, in the short timeframe we have to avert climate catastrophe, without posing substantial risks to communities on the frontlines of the buildout, is a pipe dream.”

“It’s time for decision-makers to abandon the dirty, dangerous myth of CCS,” declares the ad. “We call on you to: Stop subsidizing CCS. Stop permitting CCS. Stop using CCS to justify climate inaction. And don’t pretend you’re a climate leader if CCS is part of your climate plan.”

The groups argue that “instead of capturing carbon to pump it back underground, we should keep fossil fuels in the ground in the first place. And instead of bankrolling CCS, public funds should be boosting sustainable, job-creating solutions to the climate crisis, for fossil-dependent workers and communities: phasing out oil, gas, and coal; investing in energy efficiency and non-combustion renewable energy sources; and protecting forests and other ecosystems that naturally capture and store carbon.”

Nikki Reisch, director of the Climate & Energy Program at the Center for International Environmental Law, one of the group signatories, echoed that sentiment in a statement.

“CCS is life support for the fossil fuel industry—and a death sentence for the planet,” she said. “We need to ditch fossil fuels, not ‘fix’ them with technologies that are dangerous, costly, unproven at scale, and at odds with environmental justice.”

“Rather than bankroll the buildout of massive and risky CCS infrastructure on top of polluting industries,” Reisch continued, “policymakers should finance the future, by replacing fossil fuels with renewables and creating sustainable jobs.”

The letter comes as White House and congressional leaders are sorting out federal infrastructure and jobs legislation, and governments of countries across the globe who have signed on to the Paris agreement—including those of the United States and Canada—are preparing for a November climate summit.

Mitch Jones, policy director at Food & Water Watch, another signatory, pointed out that “the US government has already spent billions of dollars on carbon capture to no end.” Demanding congressional action, he added that “continuing to do so is throwing good money after bad; diverting resources that could be put to use actually confronting our climate crisis.”

Julia Levin, senior Climate and Energy Program manager at Environmental Defense Canada, similarly said that her country’s government “should not use any kind of financial support or tax incentive to prop up false climate solutions that only serve to delay the necessary transition off of fossil fuels. Instead, we should be focused on real climate solutions including renewable energy and energy efficiency that are job-creating, safe, affordable, and ready to be deployed.”

Other signatories to the letter and ad include 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Justice Alliance, Friends of the Earth US, Global Witness, Greenpeace USA, Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, Indigenous Environmental Network, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), Oil Change International, and Sierra Club Canada Foundation.

“The climate crisis is upon us, it’s impacting every facet of our lives as well as taking far too many lives in its perilous process,” said Anthony Rogers Wright, director of environmental justice at NYLPI.

Calling out government leaders who have so far ignored warnings about “false solutions” like carbon capture, he added that “it must, therefore, be stated lucidly that support for CCS is an exacerbation of environmental racism, an affront on Tribal/Indigenous sovereignty, and nothing more than a perverse lifeline to industries that profit off of death and calamity.”

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article originally appeared on CommonDreams.org.

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