CCS is a dangerous distraction from real climate leadership. Norway is the #2 public subsidizer of carbon capture and storage, new analysis from Oil Change International (OCI) reveals. The United States is #1 and the EU is #3.
- The Norwegian government has spent at least $4.12 billion of public money – out of more than $20 billion worldwide – on CCS, providing a lifeline for the fossil fuel industry. Approximately one in every $5 dollars tracked in the Oil Change International database that was spent on CCS was spent by Norway.
- In comparison, the EU spent $2.77 billion of public money on CCS subsidies. Only the United States spent more public money on CCS subsidies: $8.08 billion
- Like most CCS projects in the world, Norwegian CCS projects frequently overpromise and under-deliver.
Fossil fuel phaseout is at the top of the agenda at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai (COP28). The oil and gas industry and its government enablers are feeling the heat, and have sent at least 475 lobbyists specializing in CCS to COP28 to promote “carbon capture” as a misguided alternative to ending fossil fuels. This analysis comes three days after the Kick Big Polluters Out Coalition reported a record 2,456 fossil fuel lobbyists gaining access to this year’s climate talks.
Norway has long been a proponent of CCS. The Norwegian government brought an official business delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference, featuring representatives from Equinor, Aker BP, and other oil and gas companies, with the express intention of promoting CCS. Newanalysis from OCI demonstrates the results of the CCS lobby in Norway – based on publicly-available figures for 2008-2020 from Norway’s Oil and Energy Ministry, and information on the government’s CCS webpage and the website of the CCS research programme CLIMIT, $4.12 billion in public subsidies have already been granted. The real figure could be larger given other forms of public support for CCS that come under other ministries’ budgets.
Norway’s extensive CCS bankroll comes at the same time as the country pursues aggressive oil exploration and production policies. Norway is Europe’s most aggressive oil explorer, including in vulnerable Arctic ecosystems. Recent analyses show offshore carbon storage involves risks to vulnerable ecosystems, including leaks and local acidification. Norway and four other countries account for over half of planned expansion from new fields through 2050.
Norwegian CCS subsidies continue despite projects repeatedly failing, most notoriously in the full-scale carbon capture project at Mongstad. This project, once described as Norway’s “moon-landing” by then-Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, failed at considerable cost. The Kårstø project also failed, wasting further public money. CCS is among the most expensive and inefficient ways to reduce emissions, as highlighted in the IPCC’s comparison of different mitigation measures.
Two CCS projects operating on Norwegian fields – at Snøhvit and Sleipner – are routinely referenced as models for other countries pursuing CCS. However, recent studies show these projects faced unpredictable challenges that put them at risk and increased their costs. Norway’s current plans envisage much larger projects that attempt to store CO2 from multiple sources, at an unprecedented scale.
Aled Dilwyn Fisher, Senior Research Campaigner at Oil Change International’s North Sea Campaign, said:
“CCS in Norway keeps returning to the top of the climate agenda despite repeated failures and enormous costs. The reason for this is simple – promoting CCS primarily benefits oil and gas interests, and distracts from criticism of Norwegian petroleum policy, which seeks to expand exploration and production in the middle of an ever-worsening climate emergency. The only technology that will efficiently reduce emissions is renewable energy, coupled with an equitable and managed phaseout of fossil fuels.
To be a climate leader, Norway’s just transition should prioritize a phaseout of all fossil fuels, and instead phase-in more renewable energy and energy efficiency. Global leaders must refuse any loopholes in the decisions made at COP28 in Dubai that would open for oil-producing countries like Norway or fossil fuel companies to justify continued oil and gas extraction with the use of ‘abatement’ technologies.”