Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Within the next 24 hours or so I shall know whether my personal efforts of the past year in the fight against climate change have come to fruition.

Back in February I landed the job of European Parliament negotiator on new legislation to prepare the way for the development of carbon capture and storage technology. This calls for CO2 from fossil fuels used in power stations to be separated, captured, and then piped for permanent burial deep underground in the rocks of saline aquifers or those that formerly stored oil or gas.

In a world that is hugely dependent on the use of coal, with China getting 80% of its electricity from the stuff and opening a new power station every week, CCS could prove a vastly important stopgap measure that will curb emissions into the atmosphere.

Europe's leaders promised last year to have up to 12 commercial demonstration projects in operation by 2015. But they failed to say where the money will come from to make them happen. The technology will be a big loss-leader in its early years of development, requiring subsidy of €7-12 billion.

I have steered through the European Parliament a plan to gain the funding from the sale of spare carbon allowances in the emisssion trading scheme. In the absence of any alternative the Council of Ministers has reluctantly agreed the principle. That's as good as it gets.

I say we will need to set aside 350 million allowances to provide finance to test the full range of technologies. A majority of Ministers don't want to go above 150 million - perhaps enough for just 3 demo projects.

So here I am in Poznan, at the UN climate change conference, frustrated that at this final stage of the decision-making process I no longer have real influence over the course of events.

Meanwhile the Prime Ministers are gathering for their summit in Brussels. Will they give their fine words about developing CCS some real meaning, or will they prove to have been nothing more than hot air?

It's crunch time, and a chance for Gordon Brown to show his merits as a negotiator. The UK Government is an enthusiastic supporter of CCS and has given my proposal strong backing. If our Prime Minister takes a stand on this isssue he could make all the difference

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