CBI, NFU, Energy UK and others form Coalition for Negative Emissions to set out the case for a new policy framework that could drive development of projects that are critical to net zero goals
Ministers have today faced fresh calls from leading businesses for the government to step up support for the nascent negative emissions sector as part of its much-touted 'build back better' agenda.
In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, which was also addressed to Business Secretary Alok Sharma and other senior minister, an alliance of business groups announced they had formed a new Coalition for Negative Emissions to make the case for "pioneering projects that can remove carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants from the atmosphere".
The newly-formed group includes leading trade bodies such as the CBI, EnergyUK, the NFU, the Renewable Energy Association, and the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, as well as some of the leading businesses in the nascent sector, such as Drax, Heathrow Airport, Velocsys, and IAG.
"Together, we represent hundreds of thousands of workers across some of the UK's most critical industries, including aviation, energy and farming, each of which contribute billions of pounds each year to the economy," the group said in its letter.
The Coalition adds that the UK has the foundations required to build a world-leading negative emissions sector that will be critical to ensuring the country meets its net zero emissions goals by tackling residual emissions that are unlikely to be completely eliminated by mid-century.
"With COP26 fast approaching, there is a real and compelling opportunity for the UK Government to demonstrate to the world it is taking a leadership position on negative emissions," the letter states. "Conversely if the UK does not act quickly, it could jeopardise the delivery of projects in the 2020s that can support innovation, learning by doing and the scale-up of negative emissions in the 2030s. It also risks Britain falling behind in the race to scale and commercialise these technologies, with a view to exporting them to other countries around the world to support their own decarbonisation efforts."
As such, the group is calling on the government to pursue a range of 'low regrets' policy interventions that would enable a new wave of investment in a range of negative emissions projects.
Specifically, it is urging Ministers to "adopt a clear, unambiguous commitment to supporting negative emissions in the 2020s and beyond", which would be backed by targeted policies to support a number of projects.
"In order to scale up in the 2030s at a pace compatible with the UK's climate commitments, it is essential that government works with industry to bring forward early projects in the 2020s that are viable and represent value for money," the letter warns. "However, there is no marketplace or regulatory regime in the UK today that incentivises or rewards negative emissions, making financing projects extremely challenging. Dedicated policy frameworks and business models for solutions such as afforestation, BECCS and Direct Air Capture are therefore urgently needed."
It also urges the government to "seize the opportunity to make negative emissions a point of emphasis at COP26", arguing that showcasing the UK's emerging negative emissions sector would underscore the government's commitment to deliver on its net zero emissions targets.
The government is set to introduce new incentives for afforestation and natural carbon sinks as part of its post-Brexit reform of agricultural subsidies, while support for carbon capture technologies is expected to feature in a new 10 point net zero plan that is expected to be released this autumn.
However, details on the imminent new policy framework are yet to be confirmed and members of the new coalition remain concerned that the government has to date failed to provide the level of support required to scale up the nascent industry.
For example, speaking at the Net Zero Festival last month, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye warned urgent action was required to catalyse the development of the sustainable aviation fuel sector and ensure airlines have priority access to low emission biofuels.
The Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy were considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.
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