New research from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh has demonstrated a simple, affordable, and rapid method to prevent fossil fuels from causing global warming.
A “carbon takeback obligation” would require extractors and importers of fossil fuels to dispose, safely and permanently, of a progressively rising fraction of the carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by their activities and, crucially, the products they sell. That fraction would rise to 100% by the year of Net Zero, 2050.
The study, published this week in the international energy journal Joule, suggests that this single policy mechanism, imposed on the hydrocarbon industry would, if enforced consistently, stop fossil fuels from causing global warming within a generation.
It explores for the first time the economic implications of imposing a carbon takeback obligation on the global fossil fuel industry, and shows it provides an affordable and low-risk route to net zero emissions, particularly if complemented by conventional measures to reduce near-term fossil fuel demand.
Stuart Jenkins, lead author of the study, explains: “Despite the perceived high cost of CO2 capture and storage, we show that the cost to the world economy of a Carbon Takeback Obligation, even if entirely passed on to fossil fuel consumers, is no higher (and usually less than) than the cost of mitigation in conventional scenarios meeting similar goals driven by a global carbon price.”
Professor Stuart Haszeldine, of the University of Edinburgh, a co-author, said: “European hydrocarbon companies have declared net zero with no clear idea of how to get there. COP26 continues its search for an effective international carbon market. Here is a radical solution – to make hydrocarbon companies do the work to dispose of their waste CO2 – which is simple to operate and can be rapidly put in place.
“The mechanism is fairer and less costly than current proposals for carbon taxes or paying for ETS Certificates to carry on polluting. It will also support a just transition to a more sustainable future. This guarantees that 2050 targets will be met, a requirement of the Paris Agreement, and also means no public subsidy is required.
“Investment in carbon capture and storage technology at the scale required to deliver decarbonisation targets has, to date, been dependent on state subsidies. Carbon takeback provides the fossil fuel industry with the strongest possible incentive to make amends: survival by becoming part of the solution, not the problem.”
The paper is now available open access globally here.
Stuart Haszeldine’s work on this study has been funded by EPSRC (UKCCSRC 2017 EP/P026214/1) and NERC (CO2RE NE/V013106/1).
Graphic: Graphs comparing conventional policy with detailed CTBO models proposed, where the obligation is legally placed on oil, gas, and coal companies to clean up the CO2 produced from their products. Conventional policy (blue lines) are outperformed by the CTBO, which is less cost, quicker and stores more CO2. Credit: Jenkins et al/Joule
The original version of this news article was published by the University of Oxford on 29 October 2021