30 Jan 2024, 13:20
Franca Quecke Julian Wettengel

Environmental associations form alliance against CCS in Germany

Clean Energy Wire / Handelsblatt

Eleven environmental associations and citizens' initiatives have joined forces to come out against  controversial technologies to capture and store CO₂ (carbon capture and storage, CCS), demonstrating the disagreement among German NGOs on the issue. "CCS looks back on a decades-long history of inflated expectations and unfulfilled promises and would mean a dangerous detour in the fight against the climate crisis," they say in a joint position paper speaking out against a likely upcoming government decision in favour of CCS. The alliance, which includes environmental groups Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND), Greenpeace, Environmental Action Germany (DUH) and the Bundesverband Bürgerinitiativen Umweltschutz (BBU), warns of "far-reaching climate and environmental damage" and criticises the government for being intransparent “about the costs associated with CCS and the serious risks to the environment, health and the climate."

Capturing and storing carbon emissions is controversial, as critics consider it an expensive and energy-intensive technology that could ultimately perpetuate rather than reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Germany has a long history of public opposition to carbon storage, with environmentalists worrying about environmental damages and what is often portrayed as the uncontrollable risks of storage. They also oppose its use as a lifeline for coal-fired power plants. However, a broad alliance of trade unions, industry and other environmental organisations recently called on the German government to allow CCS and to quickly introduce a planned carbon management strategy that defines guidelines for dealing with the technology. Otherwise, Germany would have no chance of rapidly restructuring its economy and achieving its climate targets, according to the position paper supported by the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) and the World Wildlife Fund Germany (WWF). Nevertheless, it highlighted the principle of CO₂ avoidance and reduction before capture.

The country's carbon storage law means it is currently impossible to start a CO₂ storage project in Germany but the government aims to change this by finalising its delayed carbon management strategy (CMS). Business daily Handelsblatt reported that the government is still in negotiations on two critical aspects of the strategy: whether to allow storage in Germany, and whether to capture emissions also in the energy sector. While Green Party economy minister Robert Habeck recently came out in favour of storing CO2 in Germany offshore, his party colleague Lisa Badum told Handelsblatt she advocated for a "European division of labour," where Denmark and Norway store the carbon following strict environmental criteria. Government coalition partner FDP, meanwhile, says that it should be allowed to use carbon capture also on fossil gas-fired power plants, which many Green lawmakers reject.

The European Commission is set to present a proposal on carbon management on 6 February.

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