UNEP Emissions Gap Report finds potential in BioCCS

By Erin Voegele | November 13, 2013

Biomass power is among the technologies addressed in the United Nations Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2013. The report considers what actions are necessary in order to limit global temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

The executive summary of the report explains that the emission gap in 2020 is the difference between emissions levels in 2020 that are consistent with meeting climate targets, and levels expected in 2020 if country pledges and commitments are met. “As it becomes less and less likely that the emissions gap will be closed by 2020, the world will have to rely on more difficult, costlier and riskier means after 2020 of keeping the global average temperature increase below [2 degrees Celsius],” wrote the authors in the report. “If the gap is not closed, or significantly narrowed by 2020, the door to many options limiting the temperature increase to [1.5 degrees Celsius] at the end of the century will be closed.”

According to the report, current global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels are considerably higher than the 2020 levels that are in line with meeting the 1.5 and 2 degree Celsius targets. Furthermore, GHG emissions levels are still rising. While global GHG emissions are estimated at 59 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) per year under a business-as-usual scenario, the report that if pledges and commitments are fully implemented, GHG emission could be reduced by 3-7 GtCO2e. However, if even in pledges are fully implanted, the emission gap in 2020 would be 8-12 GtCO2e per year, assuming least-cost emission pathways. The emissions gap to meet the 1.5 degree Celsius target would require further reductions of 2-5 GtCO2e per year.

Regarding biomass, the report shows that bioenergy production combined with carbon capture and storage (BioCCS) technology is a negative-emission solution that could offer a powerful means to reduce GHG emissions. The authors also note that BioCCS technology would be a necessity in later-action scenarios and in 1.5 degree Celsius scenarios due to the need for steeper and deeper GHG emission cuts after 2020/2030. However, the authors also point out the use of BioCCS depends on the technical and social feasibility of large-scale CCS and the technical and social feasibility of sustainable large-scale bioenergy production.

The analysis for the report was performed by 44 scientific groups in 17 countries, coordinated by the UNEP. A full copy of The Emissions Gap Report 2013 can be downloaded on the UNEP website.