The addition of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to the arsenal of measures that qualify for carbon credits will boost Abu Dhabi's ambitions to develop CCS as a means to reduce emissions and increase the productivity of its oilfields.
Delegates at the UN climate change talks in Durban that ended early yesterday agreed that CSS will now be eligible for carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), where developed countries pay for projects that reduce emissions to offset their own.
This will benefit Abu Dhabi, whose plans to create an extensive CCS programme appear to be hampered by lack of funding.
"The inclusion of carbon capture and storage in the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism is undoubtedly considered as a breakthrough," said Mari Luomi, a fellow at Georgetown University in Doha.
"Masdar's CCS projects currently seem to depend to a large extent on the availability of external funding of some sort to lift them off the drawing board."
CCS is appealing to Abu Dhabi as the carbon, once captured, boosts productivity of depleting oilfields by storing it in the reservoirs.
Masdar, Abu Dhabi's clean energy initiative, has already brought into life one CCS pilot project in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), with carbon flowing into the Habshan oilfield.
But Masdar had to shelve far bigger plans, including a 500-kilometre pipeline to connect carbon emitters to oilfields.
CCS technology is expensive, and Masdar could not agree with Adnoc on a price for the carbon. The funding coming from the CDM will ease those financing concerns.
CCS is a vital plank in the UAE's future efforts to reduce their emissions. While expensive, the technology can make a noticeable dent in the countries' emissions.
"CCS, once past the pilot stage, has the potential to generate massive emission reductions - and consequently carbon credits - for the GCC states. To give an idea of the scale, Masdar's original idea was to have the first phase of its CCS network generate 5 [million] to 6.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Masdar's up-and-running 10-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant only generates 15 kilotonnes," said Ms Luomi.