On the top left corner the title text reads "The Carbon Coup". Below it the subheading reads "How corporate capture is locking Europe into a fossil fuelled future" On the right, a white silhouette of a lock has the logos of various fossil fuel companies and lobby groups -on it such as Shell, BP, TotalEnergies, Snam, Eni, Repsol, Equinor and IOGP. At the right, close to the lock, it is written CCUS Forum in white characters

‘CCUS Forum’: nothing more than the fossil fuel industry’s ‘carbon coup’ over EU climate policy

Brussels, 29 April 2024 - Corporate Europe Observatory and ReCommon's newly launched research exposes how a group with no legitimacy, the Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) Forum, has defined some of the EU’s key energy policies.  

The CCUS Forum, set up in 2021 by the European Commission, was invited to steer regulation and public funding for CCUS, associated CO2 infrastructure, and speculative carbon capture and storage (CCS)-based ‘carbon removal’ technologies.

The Carbon Coup report critically examines the CCUS Forum, from its origins, scope and role to its composition and influence. The report debunks claims by the European Commission purporting that the forum includes a balanced representation of stakeholders. Instead our research finds that the CCUS Forum has only gotten bigger and more controlled by fossil fuel interests with each year. The forum is heavily influenced by fossil fuel polluters like Equinor, TotalEnergies, Shell and Snam as well as lobby groups like the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP). Fossil fuel industry’s interests dominate all CCUS’s working groups, which have had incredible influence on the content of the Commission’s proposal for an Industrial Carbon Management Strategy (ICMS).

The Commission’s proposal increases the EU’s targets for capturing CO2 to 280 million tonnes (Mt) by 2040 and 450Mt by 2050. However, EU countries currently capture only 1 Mt of CO2 per year, and can’t permanently store any of it. Proposed targets mean that CO2 capture capacity would actually need to increase by 450 times over the next 25 years, despite the blatant repeated failures to get CCS projects off the ground in the last 25 years.

Belén Balanyá, Researcher and Campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), says:

“The ICMS has copy-pasted the CCUS Forum’s proposals to establish a single market for carbon dioxide, which would require billions of euros from public money to build a massive net of CO2 infrastructure which is expensive, risky, unnecessary and would lock in the fossil fuel economy, diverting from real solutions towards climate destruction. The Commission’s efforts to present the CCUS Forum as a ‘balanced’ multi-stakeholder group are misleading. The CCUS is nothing more than a vehicle for fossil fuel industry lobbying. But as a result of the forum’s influence, the EU is now planning to vastly scale-up a risky, costly and repeatedly failed technology at a speed and magnitude that has no basis in reality. Fossil fuel industry should have no place influencing climate policy.”

In addition, following CCUS Forum demands, the Commission is proposing to develop 19,000km of very risky CO2 infrastructure in Europe by 2040 which include CO2 pipelines and shipping routes. CO2 pipelines can leak or rupture, potentially explosively, and multiply environmental, health and safety risks which can result in the asphyxiation of humans and animals. In April 2024 an ExxonMobil-owned CO2 pipeline leak in the US state of Louisiana, resulted in the issuance of a shelter-in-place order for local residents to avoid the risk of asphyxiation.

Elena Gerebizza, researcher and campaigner at ReCommon warns of the lack of transparency over safety, feasibility and the cost of – as well as market demand for – Eni and Snam’s CO2 Hub project in Ravenna, Italy, noting that: "Developing CCUS infrastructure speculates on the -promised but never delivered- potential to capture, transport, and store CO2 in the future – but no corporation can say for how long that CO2 will stay put. 50 years, 100 years? Forever? Snam and its peers are exposing us to an unbearable uncertainty for the planet and for society as a whole, when we already have a clear solution. Divesting away from fossil fuels immediately."


For media inquiries, please contact 

Belén Balanyá, Corporate Europe Observatory researcher and campaigner

+31633090386, belen@corporateeurope.org

Elena Gerebizza, ReCommon researcher and campaigner

+393406705319, egerebizza@recommon.org

Additional Information:

  • The report can be downloaded here.
  • The Industrial Carbon Management Strategy (ICMS) proposes an array of measures designed to massively scale up CCUS, CDR (carbon dioxide removals), and related CO2 transport infrastructure.
  • Globally, just 0.1% of energy-related CO2 emissions were sequestered in 2022 (much of which was used to extract more oil, thereby negating the initial reduction). And while estimates by the IPCC suggest this could grow in the best case to 2.4% by 2030, we also know that 80% of global decarbonisation can be met within that same time frame through the use of renewables, efficiency, electrification and the reduction of fugitive methane emissions.
  • The CCUS Forum is an annual event that sets up working groups, which in turn make proposals every year. The next meeting will take place in October in Pau, France, which is home to TotalEnergies’ CCS pilot project Lacq. 

Other findings of the report include:

  • The EU Commission’s ICMS draws heavily on the CCUS Forum recommendations. The proposal follows the template drawn up by the ‘vision’ working group (co-chaired by the Florence School of Regulation and Clean Air Task Force), and explicitly gives the CCUS Forum an even bigger role in shaping EU CCUS policy and funding in the future, including more say in planning CCUS and CO2 infrastructure.  
  • ‘Neutral’-sounding organisations active in the CCUS Forum like the Florence School of Regulation on closer inspection have links to or a history with the fossil fuel  industry. In this case it has a wide array of fossil fuel funders. Two of its ‘part-time professors’ – Andris Piebalgs, and Christopher Jones, who presented a pro-CCUS paper at the first Forum – were formerly high-level officials in the Commission’s DG Energy. Jones subsequently moved to Baker McKenzie, a law firm with fossil fuel clients, working on topics including oil, gas and hydrogen. ‘Blue’ hydrogen made from fossil gas with CCS is an oft-cited justification for CCUS infrastructure build-out.
  • Current-and-former MEPs involved in the annual forums are closely tied to the fossil fuel industry, or have held frequent meetings with oil and gas lobbyists. This includes the former rapporteur on the 2009 CCS Directive, Christopher Davies, who played an instrumental role in securing public funding for CCS, and now heads lobby group CCS Europe. Although billed only as a former MEP at the first two CCUS Forums, Davies was working for Rud Pedersen Public Affairs, a lobby firm with fossil fuel clients. By the third Forum, he was billed in his new position as CEO of lobby group CCS Europe – the first time his fossil fuel connections were explicitly acknowledged. 
  • A huge number of demands from the CCUS Forum’s infrastructure working group (co-chaired by fossil fuel lobby groups International  Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) and Zero Emissions Platform (ZEP), as well as Bellona) are also taken on board. These include ways to collectivise risks while privatising profits, such as minimising costs for polluters when building CO2 networks, funnelling public funds towards CO2 pipelines and storage sites (despite the European Court of Auditors’ conclusion that previous similar transfers were a waste of public money), and provisions to protect fossil fuel companies from the costs, risks or liabilities of things going wrong.  

The ICMS proposal promises to “use the CCUS Forum” to “increase public understanding”– yet the Forum’s working group on ‘public perception’ touts the message that “it is crucial to establish the legitimacy of CCUS technology among the public”. This suggests that its aim is rather to manipulate public perception and fabricate consent for a dangerous and flawed techno-fix.

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