One of the last but most important questions to be resolved in the climate and energy deal just agreed at the European Council was how to finance the demonstration of carbon capture and storage (CCS), the technologies that remove carbon emissions from fossil power plants and bury them indefinitely in geological reservoirs underground. In the event we managed to secure a package that will fund the construction of the 10 or so plants we will need in order to discover if we can make CCS work safely and affordably at scale. This fulfils the commitment European leaders made at their Summit last spring.
This is a breakthrough agreement. Coal is a reality. China has in recent years been building 2 new coal plants a week. The US and Germany get 50% of their electricity from coal. Unless we can find a way of ensuring that the coal that is inevitably going to be burned is emission free, there will be no chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.
Today's deal in effect establishes one of the most transformational technology partnerships ever seen. It brings us a big step closer to establishing the zero emission power systems we urgently need, not only in the EU but also in the US, China and elsewhere. It will help those in the US Congress like Senator Kerry who have been pressing for a similar package to change the game on coal in the US. It thereby puts in place a critical precondition for the agreement we need to reach at Copenhagen next year on a new international framework for climate change. That will now take centre stage.
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