Aspen Global Change Institute · 2000

Industrial Carbon Management: Crosscutting Scientific, Technical and Policy Implications

In July 2000 we convened a workshop on industrial carbon management (ICM) under the auspices of the Aspen Global Change Institute. We were motivated by concern that despite growing understanding of the technologies for using fossil fuels with minimal emissions of CO₂, and despite the central role that these technologies might well play in the reduction of CO₂ emissions over the next half-century, they are little understood beyond the group of technologists who are developing them. We were worried that growing public concern about climate change, continued inaction on CO₂ mitigation, and growing technical knowledge of ICM pose serious risks in the absence of adequate assessment of the implications of ICM for energy systems, regulation, and climate policy. Among these concerns, is the risk that ICM will be seriously assessed only in an atmosphere of crisis, as it is suddenly raised as an alternative to better-known means of CO₂ abatement. Such a situation might well result in a policy “train wreck” involving costly choices, cumbersome regulations, and inadequate public participation. Our principal goal was therefore to forge links between the diverse interest groups who must come to share a common basic understanding of the technology if assessment of ICM is to avoid the pitfalls described above. There is an obvious need for shared understanding between technologists, industry, and environmental NGOs (we hope for shared understanding, not necessarily agreement about outcomes). Equally important is the need for shared understanding between the technologists who understand ICM and the broader community that will be needed to successfully manage it, including environmental regulators, experts on climate policy and politics, and energy economists. The workshop ran for one week, in Aspen, Colorado. The 32 invited participants included representatives from the fossil energy industries, the U.S. government, U.S. national laboratories, and environmental NGOs, along with academics whose research focuses on climate policy, energy technology and policy, risk assessment, and others whose focus is on the technology of ICM itself. This document and the reports of individual participants are the formal product of the workshop. Some additional material, such as planning documents and working group reports, is available from us (the conference convenors) on request. The most important products were, we hope, new insights carried away by the participants, dialog begun, and new collaborative projects initiated. We thank all participants, sponsors, and the Aspen Global Change Institute.

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