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Carbon capture plan faces dim prospects

The climate talks in Copenhagen are unlikely to approve a proposal backed by the UAE to channel funding to efforts to capture and bury carbon emissions, analysts say.

The climate talks in Copenhagen are unlikely to approve a proposal backed by the UAE to channel funding to efforts to capture and bury carbon emissions, analysts say. The proposal, a priority of Gulf countries, will be debated this week by a panel on clean technology. It would include carbon capture in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a UN-administered programme allowing project owners in developing countries to sell credits on the open market for every tonne of pollution they keep out of the atmosphere.

Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government firm, has several carbon capture projects in the works and is counting on CDM funding to help defray its costs. Oil and coal producers support the technology because it would extend the era of fossil fuels. The proposal had historically met opposition from a number of influential states such as Brazil, and opponents had not indicated they would shift their position this week, said Hege Fjellheim, a carbon capture expert and senior analyst at Point Carbon, a consultancy.

"I'm not sure we'll find a solution at this [conference]," she said yesterday. "I do think it will be somehow included in a future climate regime." The proposal would extend the established market for carbon to projects that channel emissions from the smokestacks of power plants and factories into permanent underground storage. The technology is described by the International Energy Agency and other official bodies as an easy way of combating climate change because it would allow the world to continue burning fossil fuels without directly harming the environment.

But carbon capture, which has not yet been deployed on a commercial scale at a power plant, will not take off without establishing a value for the captured carbon process or awarding direct subsidies, experts agree. In Abu Dhabi, Masdar would sell the captured carbon dioxide to the oil industry for injection in oil wells to improve output. But even with that additional income stream, CDM funding is considered crucial to the project.

Masdar officials are attending the Copenhagen talks and have said the rule change would be a priority in their lobbying efforts. Emissions stance, b9 The problem, supporters acknowledge, is that the proposal has run into entrenched opposition from powerful conference participants. Key developing states such as Brazil worry that channelling funding to carbon capture could reduce the amount of money available for their own efforts to slow the destruction of forests, which absorb carbon dioxide, and deploy renewable energy technology.

In September, Helene Pelosse, the director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency based in Abu Dhabi, said she would oppose the inclusion of carbon capture in the CDM, arguing the challenge of climate change should be met primarily with renewable energy. The proposal will be debated this week by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, which tabled it last December at talks in Poland. If approved, it would be forwarded to the full conference for possible inclusion in the treaty.

The proposal to include carbon capture in the CDM "is not likely to move anywhere", but delegates may be able to find ways to include support for the technology in another part of a climate change treaty, said Mari Luomi, an expert on Gulf climate policy at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki. @Email:cstanton@thenational.ae Africa seeks $40bn, b10

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