Germany’s path to climate neutrality: The role of Carbon Capture and Storage

Publish date: July 6, 2023

Germany’s path to climate neutrality: The role of Carbon Capture and Storage [CCS] 

Germany, as the largest industrialised country in the European Union, faces a significant challenge in transforming its industries, infrastructure, and other sectors towards climate neutrality. This Blogpost is written by Bellona Deutschland’s very own Arne Müller (Project Manager, CCS Forum) at Bellona’s offices in Berlin. In light of what has proven to be a challenging debate on CCS’ role in Germany’s efforts to reach set climate targets, Arne has taken the time to write a comprehensive update on the situation in Germany, and the role of CCS foreseen in decarbonizing its industry.  

The emergence of the CCS debate in Germany: The Carbon Management Strategy 

Following the German parliamentary elections in 2021, an alliance consisting of industry representatives, NGOs, and associations penned an open letter highlighting the importance of including CCS in the coalition agreement as a key component of climate action. This letter helped bring the topic into the political discourse, resulting in a new debate on the implementation of CCS in Germany. The coalition government formed by the SPD (socialists), Grünen (greens), and FDP (liberals) responded by taking the issue seriously, further fuelling the discussion.   

German industries emit approximately 41 million tonnes of CO2 annually through various processes involved in the production of lime, cement, steel, certain chemical processes, and thermal waste utilisation. Irrespective of the energy sources used in these processes, carbon dioxide is released during production. To ensure that these industries can achieve climate neutrality, and to guarantee that Germany fulfils its responsibility in meeting its emission reduction targets, CCS technologies become indispensable.  

The hierarchy of climate action measures 

To effectively combat climate change, Bellona sees it as essential to follow a hierarchy of climate action measures: 1. avoidance, 2. reduction, and 3. compensation. The primary objective remains the ramp up of renewable energies, grid infrastructure development, and electrification. Due to the limited time left to act against climate change, the implementation of these measures must happen in parallel. It is crucial to work on the systemic application of CCS, including the necessary transport infrastructure, throughout Germany. This entails not only transportation by pipeline but also alternative modes such as trains and ships, considering regional specificities, and how much CO2 needs to be moved regularly.   

The beginning of the German process on CCS 

Recognising the need for a comprehensive approach, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action initiated a stakeholder dialogue earlier this year. The dialogue aims to develop a strategy based on the collective insights and expertise of various stakeholders involved in CO2 sources, transport, utilisation, and storage. To transport captured CO2 for underground geological storage to other countries, Germany will need to ratify Article 6 of the London Protocol. This ratification process is expected to take place following the parliamentary summer recess. However, this and the publication of the Carbon Management Strategy should not mark the end of the process. The strategy will likely present a high-level and abstract framework, requiring further measures to be defined. Moreover, open questions from civil society and the public need to be discussed in an ongoing process to find a common understanding  of the implementation of CCS .   

The role of the CCS Forum 

To fill the gap in the dialogue process initiated by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Bellona Deutschland established the CCS Forum. This Forum serves as a platform for dialogue bringing together industrial stakeholders, civil society representatives, think tanks, trade unions, and associations involved in the entire CCS value chain. The aim is to foster mutual trust, enhance understanding, and ensure broad social acceptance by sharing knowledge and engaging in constructive discussions.   

The CCS Ladder – a tool for a nuanced debate 

Together with E3G and individual authors, we have developed the CCS Ladder, which was published recently. It presents a classification of the climate benefits of various CCS applications in Europe – for the time points 2030 and 2050. With this tool, social debates and processes for regulatory frameworks e.g., the CMS, should be supported. The CCS Ladder is supposed to be a discussion opener and is a chance to bring more nuance into the debate which is often characterised by dichotomy of the different sides. 

One of the key takeaways is that there are no-regret-sectors for CCS. Its climate value is greatest for industrial applications with significant process emissions such as cement and lime. Public funding should go in these sectors, and we need to start implementing CCS now.  

CCS is here to stay: The role of CCS for climate action will change over time. But the ladder shows that we will need the CO2 infrastructure we need to build now in the future – including for negative emissions, which become more important with every year we fail to reduce emissions sufficiently. 

Moving forward 

With two essential tools (co-)developed by Bellona Deutschland to help the CCS conversation forward—namely the CCS forum and the CCS ladder—we will continue to seek an evolution of the debates on the matter past existing dichotomies, and towards concrete climate action within a time frame that reflects the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.

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