Interview: Michael Stephenson, British Geological Survey head of science & technology

He was part of the team credited with putting carbon capture and storage (CCS) on the government’s policy map. But with the UK’s CCS plans stalling, Prof Michael Stephenson tells Evelyn Adams we need to take stock of our options for tackling climate change. The director of science and technology at the British Geological Survey (BGS) cites a recent report by the Parliamentary Advisory Group on Carbon Capture and Storage that found the cost of meeting emissions goals could be reduced if a network of pipes is built to store CO2 beneath the North Sea. The report was written on the back of what Stephenson describes as a ‘catastrophic’ cancellation of the UK’s £1bn CCS competition. He says the technology could buy time for governments to develop electricity storage for renewables by allowing them to continue using fossil fuels. “The report’s author is right to point out that CCS can be a way to decarbonise big industry relatively cheaply, probably in the range of cost of other decarbonising activities,” says Stephenson. “Geological processes naturally sequester carbon – coal is a massive example of that – and so CCS isn’t all that ‘unnatural’.”