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Call for Evidence

Technological Innovations and Climate Change: Negative Emissions Technologies

In this strand of its inquiry, the Committee will look at the potential contribution of negative emissions technologies (NETs) to achieving the Government’s net zero ambitions and in mitigating the effects of carbon emissions more generally.

Negative emissions technologies are attempts to absorb and store carbon and other atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs). Alongside nature-based solutions,[1] NETs are one of the proposed tools within greenhouse gas removal (GGR) techniques to reach the overall net zero target.

The UK Government is a signatory to the Paris Agreement (2015) which aims to limit average global warming to well below 2°C, ideally to below 1.5°C. In order to do this, the UK Government has committed to reducing carbon emissions (a key cause for global warming) to ‘net zero’ by 2050.[2] This means that any carbon emissions, predominantly from CO2, must be as low as possible and ideally at absolute zero.

For some sectors, reaching net zero is very difficult. This includes several ‘energy-intensive industries’ (EIIs), such as agriculture, aviation, iron and steel production, cement production and other industries.[4] These are sometimes known as ‘hard-to-decarbonise’ sectors. In these cases, the development of GGR techniques could off-set carbon emissions to reach zero emissions. According to most climate models, large-scale deployment of GGR technologies are needed to meet Paris Agreement obligations.[5]

The Climate Change Committee considers that at least 5 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) per year by 2030 are needed to be captured through GGR,[6] and that between 75 and 175 MtCO2 will need to be stored annually by 2050.[7] Similarly, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has concluded that the Government should commit to the wide-scale deployment of new GGR technologies by 2030 in order to be able to meet its net zero obligations.[8]

The UK Government has indicated that NETs (specifically BECCS and DACCS) will play a role in reaching net zero, but has not given a firm commitment on their role or published a GGR strategy.[9]

There are two proposed technologies that are considered to be most viable:[10]

  • Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). This combines biomass with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, whereby biomass (plant matter or organic waste) is used for energy generation, and the resulting CO2 is then stored underground to prevent it from entering the atmosphere.[13]
  • Direct Air Carbon Capture and Sequestration (DACCS). This technology has been proposed to remove significant quantities of CO2 by placing large volumes of air in contact with chemicals known as sorbents. These chemicals capture CO2 (through absorption or adsorption) and will be stored in the ground.[14]

BECCS and DACCS are currently at an early stage of development. There is currently one BECCS power station being trialled in North Yorkshire (Drax)[15] while a DACCS plant has been proposed in Scotland (Storegga and Carbon Engineering).[16] Other projects are being, or have been, trialled in Switzerland, Canada, and elsewhere. Other early-stage DACCS projects focusing on marine carbon capture, such as SeaCURE (Sea Carbon Unlocking and Removal), also have the potential to support the UK Government's net zero goal.[17]

Although there is a significant predicted role for NETs, there are uncertainties, concerns and challenges around their widespread use, such as the ability to develop and deploy technology at scale, ecological impacts or, in the case of BECCS, available land and access to sustainable biomass.[18] There are additional questions about the storage of CO2 once it has been captured, specifically around the available options for storage onshore (such as salt caverns or disused mines) and offshore (such as disused oil and gas wells).

The role that NETs are expected to play is premised on modelling that makes a number of assumptions about the future, including stable economic growth, lower costs for successfully developing GGR technologies and that GGRs will be accepted and used across social systems.[19] These are known as climate change models and Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs). There is growing concern that some of these assumptions may not come to fruition, raising questions what contribution NETs can realistically make.

The Committee is inviting written submissions to inform two forthcoming evidence sessions on NETs, predominantly but not exclusively looking at BECCS and DACCS. Written evidence submissions should focus on, but need not be limited to, answering the following questions:

  • What contribution could NETs (through DACCS, BECCS, and/or other NETs) make to achieving net zero by 2050?
  • Which ‘hard to decarbonise’ sectors could benefit most from NETs, and which should be prioritised?
  • At what technological stage are current NETs, and what is the likely timeframe that will allow NETs to be operational at scale in the UK?
  • What are, and have been, the barriers to further development of NETs? How can such barriers be overcome?
  • What, if any, are the links and co-benefits to other technological innovations, such as sustainable aviation fuel or sustainability in the energy sector?
  • What are the trade-offs between availability of land and availability of sustainable biomass to make NETs a viable option in and beyond the UK?
  • What are the options for the storage of captured carbon, whether onshore or offshore?
  • What other drawbacks for the environment and society would need to be overcome to make NETs operational?
  • Given the proposed role of NETs in climate change modelling, is there a danger of over-reliance on these technologies in net zero strategies?
  • How should the UK Government support the further development of NETs?
  • What policy changes, if any, are needed to ensure the UK gains a competitive advantage and remains at the cutting edge of this sector?
  • The Government has indicated it will publish a Biomass Strategy in 2022, including the role of BECCS. What should be included in this strategy?

Written evidence should be submitted through the Committee’s web portal by Thursday, 28 October 2021 at 5pm. Respondents need not answer all the questions and evidence need not be limited to addressing the questions listed above. Submissions should be not more than 3,000 words but shorter submissions are welcomed and encouraged.

We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind when we ask them to choose a representative. We are currently monitoring the diversity of our witnesses.

It is recommended that all submitters familiarise themselves with the Guidance on giving evidence to a Select Committee of the House of Commons which outlines word count, format, document size, and content restrictions.


[1] Nature-based solutions are based on protecting, managing, restoring or creating natural or modified ecosystems, on land or in marine environments, to mitigate climate change by absorbing greenhouse gases. Nature-based solutions are currently being investigated by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee (Nature-based solutions for climate change).

[2] HM Government. 2019. The Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019.

[3] HM Government. 2019. UK becomes first major economy to pass net zero emissions law. Press release from BEIS and the Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP.

[4] Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology. 2012. Low Carbon Technologies for Energy-Intensive Industries.

[5] Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology. 2020. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

[6] Climate Change Committee. 2021. Progress in reducing emissions: 2021 Report to Parliament, p.24.

[7] Climate Change Committee. 2019. Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming, p.181.

[8] National Infrastructure Commission. 2021. Engineered greenhouse gas removal.

[9] HM Government. 2020. The Energy White Paper: Powering our Net Zero Future. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

[10] HM Government. 2020. The Energy White Paper: Powering our Net Zero Future. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

[11] Climate Change Committee. 2020. The Sixth Carbon Budget: The UK’s path to Net Zero.

[12] National Infrastructure Commission. 2021. Engineered greenhouse gas removal.

[13] Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology. 2020. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

[14] Gambhir, A. and Tavoni, M. 2019. Direct Air Carbon Capture and Sequestration. How It Works and How It Could Contribute to Climate-Change Mitigation. One Earth 1:4, pp.405-9.

[15] Drax. BECCS and negative emissions. Drax website.

[16] BBC News. 2021. Climate change: Large-scale CO2 removal facility set for Scotland.

[17] 2021. Projects selected for Phase 1 of the Direct air capture and greenhouse gas removal programme. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology. 2020. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

[19] Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology. 2020. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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