CAMPAIGNERS have warned the Scottish Government's blueprint to cut carbon emissions “isn’t remotely credible” after new research highlighted gaping holes the SNP’s key strategy.

Ministers have pledged that Scotland will become carbon neutral by 2045 – five years ahead of a UK Government promise. MSPs have also committed to reducing Scotland’s carbon emissions by 75 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030.

A key pillar of the Scottish Government’s updated climate change plan points to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as a pivotal part of hitting important targets – insisting the method will be "essential to reach net zero emissions” and is “key to industrial de-carbonisation”.

The government’s delayed updated climate change plan includes an £80 million fund to support the development of CCS and other “negative emission technologies”.

But a study by the Tyndall Centre, has warned that “significant deployment” of the technology for power, heat and transport systems is “now not expected until 2030”.

The climate experts have also pointed to a “lack of incentives, policies and regulation for CCS implementation compared to what is expected to be delivered by CCS infrastructure”.

READ MORE: Scotland should become 'carbon capture hub' for Europe as part of climate strategy

The Scottish Government claims CCS is the “most cost-effective de-carbonisation technology for key sectors of Scottish industry”, stressing that the commercialisation of the technology is required for negative emission technology, which are “needed to reduce emissions at the rate necessary to meet our climate change targets”.

Friends of the Earth Scotland, which commissioned the research alongside Global Witness, has called on ministers to instead focus on developing the renewable energy sectors instead of “illusory” carbon capture technology.

CCS involves separating and capturing carbon dioxide from other gases before it enters the atmosphere – converting CO2 into liquid to be transported.

The CO2 is pumped or injected deep underground for permanent storage.

The vast majority of carbon captured, globally, has so far been used to extract more oil via the process of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) - rather than for power generation and other uses. Fossil fuel-based CCS is not capable of operating with zero emissions.

The technology is thought to be able to capture up to 95 per cent of carbon dioxide, but the number is more likely to be around 90 per cent.

The Herald: CCS could by used to de-carbonise Scotland's heavy industryCCS could by used to de-carbonise Scotland's heavy industry

The Petra Nova facility in the United States which opened in 2017 has suffered outages on 367 days and missed capture targets by around 17 per cent.

The Tyndall Centre research has warned that carbon capture “progress has stalled in the UK due to slow movement on UK policy for CCS deployment”.

It adds that while development in North America has ramped up, where 12 large-scale facilities are in operation, carbon capture “deployment in Europe outside of Norway has not yet materialised” and is not expected to pick up pace until the “mid and later 2020s”.

Crucially, the experts warn that “the large-scale deployment” of carbon capture as an option to meet climate targets “depends on the further development of the technology”.

The study points out that while “CO2 storage is by and large a safe operation if storage sites are properly selected”, a key barrier to the technology being scaled up so far is “the risk associated with the safety” of the infrastructure.

Climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, Jess Cowell, said: “The world needs urgent cuts to climate emissions every year of this decade but CCS can’t deliver anything meaningful until the 2030s, if at all.

READ MORE: What is carbon capture and storage?

“Politicians and CCS’s backers in the fossil fuel industry want us to trust them with a technology with a long history of over-promising and under-delivering.

“The shocking revelations that the small number of existing carbon capture plants in existence are almost all being used to increase fossil fuel extraction must give pause to anyone who is pushing this as a realistic solution to the climate crisis.”

She added: “The Scottish Government plan of relying on CCS to do the heavy lifting of emissions cuts by 2030 isn’t remotely credible when there isn't a single working CCS plant anywhere in the UK.

“Public money would deliver more jobs, faster emissions cuts and bigger boosts to wellbeing if it was invested in a range of renewables and energy efficiency measures instead of being wasted on more illusory carbon capture projects.

“This report makes it clear that carbon capture and storage is a dangerous distraction from the necessary action to cut climate emissions from our energy sector in this crucial decade. Instead we need a bold plan setting out steps to phase out fossil fuel extraction and use, while ensuring a just transition for workers and communities dependent on the industry.

“Carbon is already captured and stored underground in fossil fuels. We should be leaving it there instead of spending billions trying to invent technology to solve this problem of our own creation.”

READ MORE: Carbon capture and storage solution for reducing CO2 level

The government’s updated climate plan highlights an ambition of kickstarting a green recovery from the pandemic including the need to “accelerate the development of negative emissions technologies, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen as essential components of our energy system”.

Scotland’s first carbon capture plant will be constructed at the St Fergus gas plant in Aberdeenshire.

It is hoped the Acorn CCS facility opens in 2024 and could remove 340,000 tonnes of CO2 per year – labelled a “relatively small project” by the Scottish Government.

Ministers hope the plant will “act as a major clean growth catalyst” and open up wider opportunities if it is successfully commercialised. A

longside the Acorrn CCS project, a parallel hydrogen project will transform natural gas into “clean-burning hydrogen” - set to be operational by 2025 and will also rely on capture and storage technology.

Ministers believe Scotland has “substantial potential” to develop CCS infrastructure. The climate change plan states that if Scotland’s net zero ambitions are to become reality, “renewable electricity will also combine with hydrogen to provide heat and power to households, businesses, large transport fleets and a range of industrial processes”.

It adds: “The development of carbon capture and storage and NETs will mean that the electricity system in 2032 could potentially deliver negative emissions, compensating for residual emissions elsewhere in the energy system.”

READ MORE: Scotland to become 'world’s first zero emission aviation region'

Detailed research, development and analysis of CCS will take place this year to set out the potential of the technology for the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government hasstressed that the country’s “vast potential for offshore CO2 storage and legacy oil and gas infrastructure and skills” gives Scotland “internationally significant advantages” in CCS technology “that will enable us to remain internationally economically competitive”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland has the most ambitious climate legislation in the world. Our 2030 target of 75 per cent emissions reduction goes beyond what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed globally to prevent warming of more than 1.5 degrees. It is extremely stretching and rightly ambitious.

“Our climate change plan update sets out the policies that will be introduced, boosted or accelerated to help Scotland become net-zero by 2045 at the latest.

READ MORE: Scottish Government's failure to meet carbon emission target blamed on cold weather

"The plan is cross-sectoral with over a 100 new policies and proposals stressing the need for action in all areas of our economy and society including transport, heat, industry, food production and land use. On the latter, the plan focusses on Scotland’s enormous potential to sequester carbon via nature based solutions such as peatland restoration and tree planting.”

He added: “It is clear that carbon capture, utilisation and storage will play an important role in helping us to reach net-zero emissions. Indeed, advice from the Committee on Climate Change describes it as a “necessity, not an option”.

We support the development of CCUS infrastructure which will have the flexibility to adapt over time to play a central role across the decarbonisation strategies of key sectors such as heat, industry and power.

“In developing this plan, we have sought expert advice and engagement from key stakeholders and will continue to do so.”