Breaking Europe’s Climate-Change Stalemate

LONDON – Europe has a strong tradition as a leader in the fight against climate change. Lately, however, the continent has reached an ideological impasse over how to address the problem, with environmental sustainability and growth often portrayed as being mutually exclusive. If Europe is to remain an environmental leader, as well as a center of innovation and competitiveness, it will have to abandon its ideological rigidness and embrace realistic, pragmatic solutions that can deliver environmental benefits without sacrificing economic development.

The challenges posed by climate change are real, and the consequences of inaction are impossible to ignore. At the same time, there is a growing demand for energy and a desperate need for a long-term exit from the ongoing economic crisis. There is no single, easy solution that addresses both of these imperatives. Reining in global warming while ensuring economic growth will require a balanced portfolio of solutions, including renewable energy and increased energy efficiency. Essential among such solutions is carbon capture and storage.

CCS technology captures carbon dioxide at the source of its emission, compresses it, and stores it permanently underground. In doing so, it provides an important bridge between our modern economy, which relies heavily on carbon-intensive fossil fuels, and a future in which CO2 emissions are greatly reduced. This provides the means for maintaining a competitive industrial sector while simultaneously combating global warming.

To be sure, as with any innovation, there are questions about the technology's viability. Some question the scale of the investment needed to install and maintain the systems necessary for capturing and storing CO2. It is important to note, however, that these costs pale in comparison with the far greater costs of reducing CO2 emissions without CCS. According to the International Energy Agency, for example, a ten-year delay in deploying CCS would increase the cost of decarburizing the power sector by €750 billion ($880 billion).