CCS "on the cusp of being allowed to realize its global mitigation potential"

At the COP 16/ CMP 6 meeting in Cancun in 2010, CCS was made eligible as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDC) pending the resolution of a limited number of issues. Some of these issues include: transboundary issues, liability issues and monitoring. At the current meeting in Durban, various parties (negotiators for countries and groups of countries) are meeting as the SBSTA's (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice) contact group on 'carbon dioxide capture and storage in geological formations as clean development mechanism project activities' to resolve these outstanding issues. This contact group is working on coming to an agreement for text that, according to Barry Jones, General Manager of the Global CCS Institute, puts CCS "on the cusp of being allowed to realize its global mitigation potential."

As you can imagine, there are a number of delegates at the meeting following the work of the contact group on CCS. Some of the contact group's meetings are open to observers initially, and then the group may go into 'informal' session, which means it is then closed to observers. At the contact group meeting on Thursday, December 1, the first 45 minutes were open to observers delegates. Katherine Romanak of STORE and the Gulf Coast Carbon Center, Erin Miller (graduate student working on carbon storage at UT Austin) and I attended the open session, along with a number of interested delegates from industry, academia, environmental groups and governmental organizations.

The process for reaching consensus on the document is shown in the accompanying photo. One of the co-chairs of the contact group projects the current draft copy of the document on the overhead screen, goes through the various elements of text needing discussion, calls on parties who would like to make comments or changes, and then edits as needed. Areas of concern are highlighted in yellow and need further discussion; recently noted verbiage needing discussion, selection or approval is in [brackets]; and newly approved changes are highlighted in green. At first I thought 'green' was for 'go', but the co-chair (from Portugal) explained that colors were chosen based on his favorite sports team! Observers are not allowed to make comment during the proceedings.

During the open part of the session, an important item of discussion was A.1.g, the definition of 'seepage'. At the time, the draft version of the text that was projected read: "Seepage" means [physical leakage] [migration] of carbon dioxide from a geological storage site... By the time we left the room, the parties had decided on using 'migration' as the better word choice. They were still trying to decide if seepage was defined as migration into the atmosphere, [biosphere or] [hydrosphere] [the water column] [groundwater protection zone]. It looked like a long night ahead when we left the room! The draft status of the document at the close of the contact group's session that night would be made public in the morning.