Carbon Capture and Storage Ladder: Assessing the Climate Value of CCS Applications in Europe

Publish date: July 7, 2023

Together with E3G and independent co-authors, our colleagues from Bellona Deutschland have published a “CCS Ladder” for Europe, inspired by the ladder for clean hydrogen by Liebreich Associates. With this work, we hope to initiate a more nuanced discussion about the climate benefits of various CCS applications while advocating that public support – ranging from infrastructure planning to policy frameworks or financial assistance – should be focused on applications with the greatest climate benefits. This work aims to support ongoing discussions on carbon management strategies at various levels, including the CMS in Germany and the EU’s Net-Zero Industry Act. 

In general, it should be noted that the CCS Ladder does not discredit any applications of CCS – from a pure climate perspective, it is always better to permanently store CO2 deep underground than to emit it. It also does not pass judgment on whether individual CCS projects are meaningful. Instead, it provides an overview of the general application fields. Other factors (e.g., age, location) can lead to different decisions regarding specific facilities. 

The CCS Ladder should not be seen as a definitive ranking but rather as a starting point for discussion – we are very interested in feedback and look forward to opportunities to discuss the methods, results, and recommendations. 

Download the Briefing document: CCSL-briefing

Download the Criteria and Methodology document: CCSL-methodology


  • We propose a methodological framework to assess the climate benefits of various CCS applications by categorizing a range of applications based on four criteria: 1) Competition from alternative technologies; 2) Mitigation potential; 3) Feasibility; 4) CO2 source. The ladder is created for the timeframes of 2030 and 2050 – see charts below. 

Key Insights: 

  • The climate benefits are greatest for industrial applications with process emissions, particularly in sectors with non-metallic minerals such as cement and lime. 
  • In the energy sector, the climate benefits are lowest and expected to decrease significantly over time. 
  • The role of CCS in climate protection will evolve over time. For most applications, it is expected that the climate benefits will decrease, while it will become increasingly important for achieving negative emissions through direct air capture. Thus, the ladder shows that the CO2 infrastructure we need to build now will be needed in the future as well. 


  • Assessing the climate benefits of CCS applications requires a systemic approach. In the context of deep decarbonisation, the assessment of the climate benefits of CCS applications must go beyond considering emission reductions in relation to investment and instead consider a wide range of ecological, financial, and technical feasibility factors. 
  • European policymakers need to conduct their own robust assessments to determine the climate benefits of various CCS applications. These assessments should be based on objective and transparent criteria set through contributions from all affected stakeholders and regularly updated to consider the changing overall value of CCS deployment for the climate over time. 
  • Limited public resources and initially limited storage capacities argue for aligning public support – both in financial and non-monetary form – with applications that offer the greatest climate benefits, especially when scaling them proves challenging due to technical and regulatory factors. 
  • Accelerated electrification, rapid expansion of renewable energy, and increased use of energy efficiency and circular solutions are necessary. Drastically reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, coupled with a strong emphasis on energy efficiency and a reduction in primary energy demand, is necessary to achieve climate goals. Depending on the success of other measures, the role of CCS needs to be regularly evaluated, and application areas may need to be adjusted accordingly. 

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get our latest news

Stay informed