Having read the forthright retort of SCCS to the UK Government’s efforts on tackling climate change, I have to say I couldn’t agree more. It definitely seems as though the UK has had the handbrake on when it comes to actual tangible action.

Further still, I would question if there really is a clear appetite for rapid change to tackle CO2 emissions. If there is, I’m not sure I’ve seen evidence of it.

There is undoubtedly good intent, but it would also be easy for one to argue that we’ve seen a lot of posturing rather than firm action, which then leads me to question why that is.

The future of CCS for the UK

Many other countries, some far smaller in comparison, have made far bigger commitments (at least on the face of it) or achievements in tackling emissions and climate change. Even regions or localities are arguably more progressive in their action, whether that’s in terms of carbon capture or implementing clean technologies that tackle emissions in a preventative manner.

Look at Mariestad, a small town in southern Sweden. Once known largely for the well-preserved 18th and 19thcentury buildings in its old town, Mariestad is fast-becoming known for its rapid progress in embracing hydrogen energy. The town has partnered with technology innovators to design and deliver a hydrogen filling station for vehicles where hydrogen is generated using solar energy, on a 1 acre (~4,000 square meters) block of land. The city is encouraging public buses, taxis and private vehicle users to switch to hydrogen vehicles and gas refills are available for free, to help people make the decision to convert from fossil fuels.

But more than that, the city council schools are going off-grid using solar hydrogen – and eventually all city council buildings will do so too, leveraging the excess capacity from the solar farm at the vehicle filling station.

Yes, we could argue that it’s far more feasible for a small locality like Mariestad to implement such a groundbreaking initiative, in contrast to what it would take for such a huge country, economy and industrial heartland as the UK to do so. Yet we have to applaud the sheer courage, determination and forward-thinking of the town’s council and Mayor in breaking bold, visionary new ground here – and actively tackling sustainability. There’s certainly no handbrake applied here.

I wrote several weeks ago that the battle to arrest and even reverse climate change, as well as clean up our unnecessary waste (plastic) and chase sustainability, is the single biggest unifying movement I can personally recall. This has been crystallised in the last 2-3 years as awareness of our impact on the planet has proliferated, and yet the UK Government has arguably been so distracted by Brexit that tangible action on emissions and sustainability has not been as noticeably high up its own agenda.

A movement, a responsibility, and a growth driver

Where is the mass uptake of carbon capture and storage technologies, that we know to be readily available?

We’ve seen investment in hydrogen mobility but again, the UK lags far behind many other nations in this regard. Were are the big budgets for this imperative fuel in the here and now?

Where are announcements of Direct Air Capture (DAC) plants that our industry knows so much about, plants that can not only suck harmful CO2 out of the local atmosphere but also repurpose it for good use in various applications?

This latter point was one I made myself just weeks ago at the British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) Annual Conference in Manchester. At a time when Brexit uncertainty endures, and even the most basic of Brexit negotiations continues to fail, why is the UK not taking a lead in both environmental and supply chain sustainability with the adoption of DAC technologies?

It’s a lead that the UK could well need as it exits the EU and essentially goes it alone. Last year’s CO2 shortages taught us much about supply chain fragility, particularly in the UK. If we haven’t even been able to get the fundamental negotiations of Brexit nailed over the last three years, how likely are we to overcome more niche areas like chemicals and gases trade, or even the vessels that contain them? Will we have issues with importing products from Europe, or the certification of the cylinders that contain them?

Isn’t it better to be investing in the UK’s supply chain now to ensure not only some added level of self-sufficiency, but to actively tackle CO2 emissions and make an environmental difference in the process?

Summit on the Slopes: Session 1&2 recap

At the very least, I think we haven’t put our foot down enough when it comes to CCS, DAC and other CO2 recovery projects. I think we do need more and more in the field of hydrogen mobility. We do need to show a more proactive attitude.

There clearly will be a lot of work to be done in how these technologies are paid for and how the necessary business models are developed, but surely on a very basic level we just need to get behind them and get them implemented. Let’s get in gear, take the handbrake off and step on the accelerator to drive these imperative initiatives forward.