Years of inaction have meant that climate scientists are no longer just discussing the need to reduce emissions, they are also talking about having to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Known as negative emissions, carbon dioxide removals are now at the centre of the climate conversation. Governments are responding by looking for technological fixes, and one of the most often discussed is Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).
But the belief that BECCS would remove emissions is based on the faulty assumption that bioenergy is carbon neutral. This is not the case. BECCS is unworkable at scale and even in a best-case scenario it is unlikely to achieve significant carbon dioxide removals. BECCS would also have massive social, environmental and economic costs. It offers the false promise of a get-out clause and must not be allowed to distract from the urgent need to stop burning fossil fuels and to protect and restore forests, soils and other ecosystems.
This briefing note is based on a literature review of studies on BECCS. It outlines six reasons why policy makers planning decarbonization pathways for 2050 or beyond must not rely on BECCS to achieve negative emissions.