Insights and Commentaries

Insights and Commentaries

With the U.S back in the Paris Agreement, 2050 Climate Targets are Within Reach

20th February 2021

On his first day in office, newly elected U.S. President Joe Biden made his commitment to addressing climate change strikingly clear by signing an executive order that would have the United States re-enter the Paris Agreement.

It was a simple act but a significant one for halting the climate crisis and advancing the deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS). As the world’s second-largest emitter of CO2, the United States will be a driver in ensuring global climate targets are met. With the country now officially a signatory to the Paris Agreement, the impacts U.S climate commitments will have on the global stage cannot be overstated.  Here are the reasons why the global carbon capture community should rejoice that as of today, 19 February, 2021, it’s official – the U.S. is back in the Paris Agreement:

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the world has to reach net zero emissions by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. This is a herculean task and a goal that global scientists agree is likely unattainable without a significant scale up of CCS. By entering the Paris Agreement, which stipulates that each country does its part to limit warming to well below 2°C, the U.S. is likely to support industrial decarbonization even further and accelerate the deployment of CCS technology.

As it stands, the U.S is the global front runner when it comes to CCS deployment.   Twelve of the world’s twenty-six operational commercial CCS facilities are in the U.S. Moreover, twelve of the seventeen new global CCS facilities entering various planning stages are in the U.S. The Paris Agreement should further galvanize more growth in this burgeoning industry across the globe.

Government investment in CCS research and development (R&D) has been increasing in momentum across the globe and is primed for international collaboration. Not least among government’s supporting CCS, the US Department of Energy’s CCS research program is mature and stretches back decades. It is now regularly funding front-end engineering design (FEED) studies as well as lower Technology Readiness Level (TRL)  R&D and their latest foray into hydrogen production with CCS. Moreover, at the end of 2021, Congress passed a new energy bill with over $6 billion in new authorizations for CCS funding inching us closer to the end goal  of widescale deployment of CCS.

The Paris Agreement provides a level of certainty for CCS investors. Committing to net-zero CO2 emissions is the work of decades. The Agreement signifies to investors, both in the United States and beyond, that carbon capture is not something that will be here today and gone tomorrow. With the U.S. accounting for roughly 1/5 of the world's GDP, there is a high ceiling for American investment in CCS.

Decarbonising all sectors of the economy and reducing emissions globally – the intent of the Paris Agreement – will require CCS. While the low carbon transition is steadily underway for some decades ahead, hard-to-abate industries must rely on CCS to decarbonise. In the time frames available to urgently deal with emissions, it is themost effective technology we have to tackle industrial process emissions.

The U.S. has historically shown bipartisan policy support for CCS that continues to this day. If there is a climate technology that people from different political ideologies across the globe can rally around, carbon capture might well be it. The Paris Agreement is a solid policy foundation to build on. It establishes broad decarbonization goals which each country can strive for with their own individual policies. With the United States now in the fold, 2050 climate targets have just become closer to reach.

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