Australian PM Rudd Announces Global Carbon Capture Project

The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI) was announced in L’Aquila by Australia’s premier Kevin Rudd. The GCCSI amounts to a global intergovernmental effort to produce state of the art carbon capture projects to sequester and store carbon produced by industry in the period leading up to a zero-emissions energy infrastructure. Rudd unveiled the project at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, convened by US president Barack Obama alongside the G8 summit of leading world economies.

The Australian prime minister described the GCCSI as a “rolling global clearing house” for cutting-edge technologies that can speed concrete carbon-capture and storage (CCS) solutions to market across the globe, helping to reduce the greenhouse effect of burning carbon-based fuels. 23 governments and 100 private companies have already joined the initiative, in hopes of supporting best-practice technological innovations that can help combat climate change and ease the cost of transitioning to a clean energy model.

The GCCSI website explains:

Since the late 1940s, the concentration of several greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, notably carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxides, has increased substantially. The stability of our planet’s climate is directly linked to the Earth’s atmosphere, and variations in the level, or concentration, of any one greenhouse gas will impact our climate. Atmospheric levels of CO2 are now higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years, standing at 385 parts per million (ppm) in 2008, compared to a pre-industrial high of 280ppm, and this figure is rising by around 2ppm each year.

The International Energy Agency projects the use of coal will increase in coming decades, with concentrations of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere “stabilizing” at 450ppm, 61% higher than pre-industrial levels. The biosphere and its natural ecosystems are not capable of metabolizing that level of atmospheric CO2, making coal itself one of the great policy challenges of the 21st century, with real economic and security ramifications for nations around the world.

CCS is focused on dampening the negative impacts of carbon-based fuel use, and Rudd was specific and firm in his assertion that the GCCSI will be oriented toward achieving what is not currently industry or public policy standard: building actual CCS projects with significant measurable real-world effects for emissions reduction. Rudd has been extremely pro-active in championing solutions to global, economic and environmental challenges, and has sought to elevate “middle-power diplomacy” as a major contribution to building global consensus on issues of global public import.

Australia’s role in helping the US to negotiate $5 trillion in global stimulus spending to slow economic contraction and spur a shift to new innovation is one example. The GCCSI is another case of “middle-power” leadership on the global stage. Another great example is the Svalbard global seed bank, above the arctic circle in Norway.

The Svalbard project is designed to ensure crop diversity potential, even if agricultural practice leads to monocropping, vulnerability to crop fungus and other plant diseases and harvest collapse. Svalbard will store seeds from every known natural or synthetic crop variety, in perpetuity.

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