Feasibility of Afforestation and Biomass energy with carbon capture storage for Greenhouse Gas Removal (FAB GGR)

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Environmental Sciences

Abstract

GGR Consortium: FAB GGR
Future climate change is projected to have overall negative impacts on many aspects of human society (e.g. health, availability of food, rising sea levels) and on natural ecosystems (e.g. loss of biodiversity). In Paris in December 2015, countries agreed to limit the increase in global mean temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C. This poses a phenomenal challenge because most of the allowable 'budget' of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to stay within these temperature targets has already been spent, and global CO2 emissions are still increasing.
Current efforts to limit the negative impacts of climate change focus on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases especially CO2 that we put into our atmosphere, by changing how we generate and use electricity, how we power our transport, and how we heat or cool our homes. However, keeping the increase in global temperature to well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial will also require us to actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a very large scale. Two ways that scientists and economists suggest we could do this are by (1) planting forests to lock up carbon and (2) using energy crops or waste from the timber and agricultural industries to generate electricity and capture and store underground the CO2 produced when the electricity is made. Both of these approaches require large areas of land on which to grow the energy crops or trees.
This project will investigate how realistic it is to depend on these methods of CO2 removal, and what the consequences would be for the climate, land-use, ecosystems, and wider social and political systems.
We aim to more accurately determine the amount of CO2 these methods are able to remove from the atmosphere for a given amount of effort. Many factors contribute to this calculation, some of which are highly uncertain. For example, how the carbon cycle will respond to a large shift in land use for energy crops or forests. Social factors are also critical. The development of these important technologies depends on understanding social reactions and the right policies being in place to stimulate uptake.
We will use an interdisciplinary mix of quantitative models and qualitative social science methods to address these issues. The models represent relevant aspects of the Earth system from farm to global scales, including the land, soils, plants, and atmosphere. A key aim is to make a comprehensive (termed 'consequential') life cycle assessment of the effect of the chosen technologies on the carbon cycle, working from the scale of supply chains to particular power plants, to the UK national scale, to the whole Earth system.
We aim to go beyond this and also consider the wider effects and trade-offs of the technologies on societies and policy, the climate system, land-use, and ecosystem services. These include impacts on the release of other greenhouse gases, physical effects on the climate system (for example changing the reflectivity of the land surface to sunlight), effects on the water cycle and water quality, on biodiversity, and on the recreational value of landscapes.
Working together with the quantitative analysis we will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the societal, policy and governance-related uncertainties, implications and bottlenecks associated with the real world implementation of the project's two chosen GGR methods. This draws on state-of-the-art social science approaches developed by the research team for the review and analysis of how members of the public and stakeholders perceive and respond to emerging technologies, including those for CO2 removal.
The consortium team will meet every six months to exchange ideas and learn from each other. At the end of the project we will present our most important findings to policy makers so they can better understand how realistic it is to depend on these methods.

Planned Impact

GGR Consortium: FAB GGR
Who and How?
The main beneficiaries outside of the scientific community for our project are:
Policymakers: National and international policymakers will benefit from results of FAB GGR to inform policy on climate change, land-use and innovation. At the UK-level relevant policymakers and advisory groups include BEIS, Defra, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), and the Natural Capital Committee (NCC). The Paris Agreement seeks to hold global mean temperature to well below 2 degrees C and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C. Future emission pathways that are commensurate with these temperature increases rely extensively on the use of carbon dioxide removal. The two most commonly used methods of carbon dioxide removal in these emission pathways are afforestation and Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage, which both involve large-scale changes in land-use. FAB GGR will provide information on the feasibility of the large scale application of these methods. This information is relevant to determine what CO2 emissions pathways are realistic for given climate targets and informs policies for driving innovation (BEIS, CCC). FAB GGR will also provide information on the implications of these methods for land-use and ecosystem services at global and UK scales (Defra, NCC), and the proposal team includes Co-I Bateman who is a member of the NCC.
The IPCC and UNFCCC: FAB GGR will provide key information on the feasibility of large scale afforestation and BECCS as currently used in future emission pathways that limit temperature increase to 1.5-2 degrees C. This will contribute to decision making associated with how to achieve the aspirations of the Paris Agreement on climate change, by improving our understanding of how much carbon dioxide can be removed by these methods at a national and global scale, which will influence the revisions of Nationally Determined Contributions. The IPCC WGIII report identified the importance of assessing not just the technical potential of mitigation and GGR activities but more importantly their real world feasibility. FAB GGR will directly address this question which impacts on the ability to 'overspend' cumulative carbon budgets in the near term by conducting GGR in the longer term. The improvement in understanding presented by FAB GGR will therefore impact directly upon near term policy choices and will make significant contributions to AR6 and AR7.
The media and the public: FAB GGR researchers are active in promoting a good public understanding of climate science and policy, particularly greenhouse gas removal and climate change mitigation. The work of FAB GGR will contribute to the ongoing public discussions about how to address climate change, how much climate change, and impacts that might be expected.
Other scientists across disciplines: FAB GGR research spans a broad range of disciplines. We will engage within disciplinary and at interdisciplinary academic peers through publication in high impact disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals and attendance at key national and international conferences for these communities. Our academic impact will be increased through our extensive national and international networks and be supported by our advisory panel.

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/P019951/1 01/05/2017 30/09/2022
2098439 Studentship NE/P019951/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2021 Thomas Ball
 
Description Our work has investigated the feasibility of afforestation and the use of biomass energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) as ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. These approaches will contribute, along with efforts to decarbonise energy supply and reduce energy demand, to the UK achieving net zero climate targets. We have found a number of important issues that need to be taken into account. Ensuring a sustainable supply of biomass for BECCS is crucial to achieving a net removal of greenhouse gases and that the quality of governance and effectiveness of policies in the UK and abroad are important to achieve this. We have also found that a narrow focus on just the cost of these approaches and the amount of carbon they remove may miss opportunities to meet a range of societal objectives, including for example, improved biodiversity, flood resilience, job creation, well-being and fairness. These GGR approaches must be discussed and considered in the context of associated and interconnected efforts to reduce emissions and increase resilience to the changes brought about by climate change. Any land-based greenhouse gas removal approaches in the UK, and policies to incentivise them, must take into account the diversity of physical (e.g. soil types, tree species) and societal characteristics (e.g. existing industries, livelihoods) in different locations throughout the UK.
Exploitation Route The findings from the FAB-GGR project are already being taken forward in both academia and policy to help understand how these approaches to greenhouse gas removal can be used to contribute to the UK's climate goal of reaching net zero emissions.
Sectors Environment

 
Description The project is now coming towards the end of its final year, with 14 publications so far in high impact journals including Nature Communications, Environmental Research Letters, Global Change Biology Bioenergy and Global Environmental Change. We held our second successful stakeholder workshop in London in November 2019 attended by individuals from government, industry, NGO and academia who provided insightful input to our research. A substantial and diverse range of public engagement activities have taken place including public lectures and public panel debates (e.g. Cheltenham Science Festival, The Royal Institution, Science Museum); press interviews (Science magazine, The Observer); blog posts for CarbonBrief (Science & Policy community audience), KNect 365 Energy (Industry & Business audience) and; a YouTube video about BECCS viewed over 5.1k times. We have contributed directly to UK policy discourse on GGR, including participation and contribution to a Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineers report on Greenhouse Gas Removal; submission of evidence to HoC BEIS Committee on CCUS and Government Call for Evidence on Greenhouse Gas Removals; submission to the Climate Change Committee Call for Evidence on Zero Carbon Economy; PI participation on an expert advisory group for the CCC Zero Carbon Economy report and PI & co-I Chaired a GGR Roundtable on Policy Options for the CCC Sixth Carbon Budget report. The PI also gave oral evidence at a HoC Select Committee on Science & Technology inquiry on Technologies for meeting Clean Growth emissions reduction targets at a session on Greenhouse Gas Removal.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Chair of a Roundtable on GGR Policy Options for the Climate Change Committee
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Chair-Report-Sixth-Carbon-Budget-roundtable-Gre...
 
Description Climate Change Committee - Expert Advisory Group on Scenarios - for Zero Carbon Economy
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
URL https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/net-zero-the-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/
 
Description Climate Change Committee - call for evidence
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.theccc.org.uk/2018/10/30/ccc-launches-zero-carbon-economy-call-for-evidence/
 
Description HoC BEIS Committee inquiry on Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/business-energy-industri...
 
Description Oral evidence at a House of Commons Select Committee on Science & Technology hearing on Greenhouse Gas Removal
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact I gave oral evidence for the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology inquiry titled, 'Technologies for meeting Clean Growth emissions reduction targets'. I am cited twice in the inquiry report in Chapter 8. This report contributed to the body of evidence upon which the Government based challenging the target in the Climate Change Act (2008) from an 80% reduction in emissions to a target of net-zero emissions in 2050.
URL https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/science-and-technology-c...
 
Description Submission to UK Government Call for Evidence on Greenhouse Gas Removals
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/greenhouse-gas-removals-call-for-evidence#:~:text=Consul...
 
Description Advisory workshop participant for Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report on Greenhouse Gas Removal 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Participant at a advisory workshop for the forthcoming Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineering report on Greenhouse Gas Removal. Other participants included national policy advisors, government departments, business and industry along with a range of national and international academics. The impacts will be on the scope and details of the forthcoming report which in turn is likely to have significant national and potentially international impact.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Carbon Brief Guest Post with Clair Gough & Sarah Mander 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Guest Blog post on CarbonBrief published 28 August 2018 about the Gough et al (2018) paper published in Global Sustainability.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-six-key-policy-challenges-to-achieving-negative-emissions-wit...
 
Description Contributor to Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineers Report on Greenhouse Gas Removal 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Following on from participation in the workshop, I was interviewed by the lead report authors and am listed as a contributor to the report titled, Greenhouse Gas Removal, published 18 September 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/greenhouse-gas-removal/
 
Description Evening public lecture at The Royal Institution 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participation as one of four speakers at an evening public talk on Greenhouse Gas Removal attended by around 120 people. Sparked questions and discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.rigb.org/whats-on/events-2017/november/public-balancing-the-climate-equation-how-to-remov...
 
Description Expert Panel member for AGU Geoengineering Position Statement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact One of two international members of an expert panel convened to review and revise the American Geophysical Union's Position Statement on Geoengineering.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://sciencepolicy.agu.org/files/2018/01/Climate-Intervention-Position-Statement-Final-2018-1.pdf
 
Description FAB-GGR Stakeholder Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact FAB-GGR first (of three) stakeholder one day workshops took place in July 2017 in London. Participants were from industry, business, academia, third sector organisations, policy advisors and policy makers. Participants were led through a series of facilitated processes to open up the issues, challenges and opportunities around using large scale afforestation and BECCS for greenhouse gas removal; to challenge, feedback and advise on the supply chains under investigation in this project; and to explore the criteria and elements of feasibility that are crucial to address. The supply chains under investigation in the project have been revised in response to the feedback and advice from the stakeholder group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Interview for Czech magazine, Respekt. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed by Martin Uhlir, for a Czech magazine called Respekt. The article was published 13 October 2018 in Czech language. The piece is titled, 'Skleník pod zemí' which translates (according to Google) as 'Greenhouse underground'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.respekt.cz/tydenik/2018/42/sklenik-pod-zemi
 
Description Interview for KNect 365 Energy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Interviewed by Jacques Moss for KNect 365 Energy (an Industry & Business facing online magazine), article published on 15 October 2018, titled, 'Can BECCS pull us back from the brink of climate breakdown?'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://knect365.com/energy/article/4c8a472f-277d-4269-ae1f-30ffc03cd6a3/can-beccs-pull-us-back-from...
 
Description Interview for The Observer 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed by Robin McKie for an article in The Observer, published 28 January 2018, titled, 'Beating Climate Change with factories that suck'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-observer1702/20180128/282222306188851
 
Description Interviewed for Science Magazine. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed by Julia Rosen for a piece in Science magazine, published 15 Feb 2018, titled 'Vast bioenergy plantations could stave off climate change - and radically reshape the planet.' Piece has had 2000 shares via Facebook.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/02/vast-bioenergy-plantations-could-stave-climate-change-and-ra...
 
Description Panel Discussion on Climate Engineering at Cheltenham Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact One of four members of a panel debate on climate engineering, where I discussed greenhouse gas removal. The event was sold out at 100 and sparked questions and discussion afterwards from the audience, overall raising the awareness of these additional ways to tackle climate change.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Pint of Science - Norwich 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk on BECCS to Pint of Science audience in Norwich. Audience size 15. Date 15 May 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation to civil servants at BEIS and other government departments 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I gave a presentation at an event hosted at BEIS for about 35 policymakers from teams across BEIS, DfID and Defra on 15 May 2018 about our Vaughan et al (2018) paper.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Public Lecture at Norwich Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public lecture to approximately 70 people as part of the Norwich Science Festival. The talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards with many commenting that they have not heard of BECCS or greenhouse gas removal before.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://norwichsciencefestival.co.uk/events/mitigating-climate-change-options/
 
Description School Visit (Peterborough) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk to Secondary School in Peterborough about BECCS and studying Geography and Environmental Sciences at University
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Science Museum - Anote's Ark premier - panel debate 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Audience of 200 for a UK premier screening of Anote's Ark (16 November 2018) followed by a four member panel (including Naomi Vaughan) to discuss ways to address climate change. The intended purpose being to engage a broad audience with the challenges, opportunities and issues of different ways of addressing climate change including GGR.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2018/11/anotes-ark/
 
Description Talk to a WI group (Northamptonshire) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk to a WI group about climate change, greenhouse gas removal and climate action. The talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description UKERC AssessBECCS Project Stakeholder Workshop - 'Assessing BECCS as a Social-Ecological System: Exploring trade-offs in land-use and equity' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Through my participation in this expert and stakeholder workshop convened by another research team I engaged a range of policy, industry and NGO stakeholders in emerging FAB-GGR project findings about the social and political dimensions of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) through open workshop discussion. These insights are being incorporated into a report and policy brief that will communicate the workshop findings to wider audiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Workshop on GGR run by Mitigation Deterrence Effects from Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) Technologies project. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Participated in a workshop on GGR run by Lancaster University as part of the Mitigation Deterrence Effects from Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) Technologies GGR programme funded project. The other participants were from third-sector, business and industry nad policy as well as two postgraduate masters students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description YouTube video about BECCS 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Narrated and contributed to the script of a YouTube video about BECCS, published 21 May 2018 and viewed so far 1668 times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzJgxz4kMLI