I thank the Chair and the members of the committee for the invitation to speak today and provide evidence on the role of carbon capture and offsetting in reaching carbon neutrality. I am an energy systems engineer and a research fellow at the Science Foundation Ireland, Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland, MaREI, centre for energy, climate and marine. I focus on energy systems analysis, and my team and I recently published research on national and global bases on the role of carbon capture and storage in zero carbon energy systems consistent with the Paris Agreement. I want to highlight the following key points from four of our published research paper, two technical reports and one discussion document in my evidence. They are included in the appendix I have submitted to the committee.
Achieving climate neutrality globally in 2050 means that 2050 is the year temperatures stop increasing. More important, cumulative greenhouse gas, GHG, emissions before reaching climate neutrality in 2050 dictates the temperature at which we stop. MaREI analysis shows that equitable carbon budgets for Ireland, based on the Brazilian rule to be compliant with the Paris Agreement, range from 638 million tonnes of CO2 to 225 million tonnes of CO2 from the year 2020 until when energy system CO2 emissions are reduced to net zero and temperature increase is stabilised at 2°C or 1.5°C.
MaREI analysis, applying these carbon budgets to the Irish energy system, shows that Irish CO2 emissions need to decrease by between 4% and 9% per year until 2030 to enable us to play our equitable part in keeping the global temperature increase below 2°C, and to reduce between 11% and 21% per year until 2030 to keep global temperatures below 1.5°C without overshooting that temperature ceiling. The majority of the scenarios that the 7% reduction rate in the programme for Government is based on assume the global temperature increase overshoots 1.5°C during this century and returns below 1.5°C by 2100.
In the Irish least-cost mitigation scenarios that I have modelled, the scenarios without carbon dioxide removal, CDR, technologies require immediate decarbonisation at rates approximately double the rates of scenarios without CDR. Reduction rates of 7% to 21% in CO2 emissions per year are required, as well as larger energy service demand reductions which impact on social welfare. In our analysis, typically, carbon capture and storage, CCS, technologies are deployed early in gas electricity generation, as well as for process emissions capture in cement production, and in some cases with bioenergy CCS, BECCS, to provide negative emissions electricity, which offsets emissions from other hard to mitigate sectors. In scenarios without bioenergy imports, we typically need earlier and more CO2 capture. Residual fossil fuel emissions from CCS technologies can become inconsistent with scenarios with stringent net zero emissions targets. This means that fossil-fuel CCS plants without near 100% capture rates of CO2 are likely to be inconsistent with the Paris Agreement compliance targets in the absence of emissions offsetting elsewhere in the energy system.
Further MaREI analyses with global integrated assessment models, IAMs, also demonstrate a considerable reliance on CDR technologies to achieve the Paris Agreement goals and highlight the considerable cost increases in achieving those goals without CCS or other direct air carbon capture and storage, DACCS, technologies. Globally, the development of CCS, DACCS and CDR technologies are already far behind the technology readiness levels needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals, as per IPCC-IAMC, International Energy Agency, IEA, and industry scenario analyses. I draw the members' attention to the EU CCS directive and amendments and the Irish ministerial decision that Ireland has exercised its right, in accordance with Article 4 of that directive, to not allow for any storage of CO2 in the State. No area of Irish territory, therefore, is free to be used for CO2 storage. This issue is to be kept under review, however.
I welcome this Bill, in particular the attention paid to defining and implementing carbon budgets, but there is still room for improvement. I note that previous debates with evidence from legal experts highlighted the ambiguity in some of the language from a legal perspective. I repeat this concern, and add that from a scientific and engineering perspective the ambiguity in some of the Bill's language also means that it will not be possible to measure or define whether commitments in the Bill are being met. I recommend that scientifically-explicit language be used in the Bill. Particular attention should be paid to the definition of certain topics. I refer to carbon budgets, the gases to be included in them, the method to be used to calculate the warming of each GHG as a proportion of the carbon budget, which gases, if any, will not be included in the carbon budgets and the timeline of the carbon budget. The definition of “removal” should also include the removal of GHGs in energy combustion and industrial processes, critically, prior to release to the atmosphere.
Irish territorial waters should be included in the definition of "sink" and "climate resilient" and "climate neutral" should also be defined, and we should consider a definition of net zero increase in radiative forcing, being cognisant of differences between short-lived and long-lived greenhouse gases. The "decarbonisation range" in the long-term strategy should also be defined in something like per tonnes of each greenhouse gas per NACE category sector per year, which would be useful.
There are some recommendations in regard to the Bill that are worth considering. We should reinstate the language around pursuit
and achievement of a minimum acceptable goal to be included for objective measurement of targets in the Bill. This is in line with the language of the Paris Agreement, which pursues a 1.5°C target, but the ultimate objective of the UN framework is to hold the post-industrial temperature increase well below a 2°C target.
We should consider a binding carbon budget for the period from 2020 until climate neutrality is achieved. We should investigate whether an overarching carbon budget should be included in the long-term climate action strategy time horizon of analysis bounded by the projected expected year of temperature stabilisation. Long-term information significantly affects short-term policy actions and our analysis demonstrates that myopia is extremely costly in long-term energy systems planning.
We should explore whether sectoral carbon budgets could be allocated based on carbon intensity per value added per NACE category sector and acknowledge the role of early dialogue and societal buy-in. Behavioural change and demand reduction will be required and the national objective is unlikely to be met by technological means alone. We should implement the Paris Agreement rachet mechanism such that five-year carbon budgets should not be larger than the previous five-year cumulative emissions. Finally, the Bill could consider Ireland’s offsetting and trade mechanisms, as well as multilateral responsibilities to developing nations' ability to decarbonise and to consider the impact of international aid in offsetting within Irish carbon budgets.
I thank the committee for today's invitation and I am happy to take any questions.