Large-scale deployment of greenhouse gas removals in the UK: identifying social justice risks

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Jun 25, 2022, 5:01:56 PMJun 25
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Large-scale deployment of greenhouse gas removals in the UK: identifying social justice risks

Lidia Ruiz

Abstract 
The United Kingdom (UK) aims to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Greenhouse gas removal (GGR) technologies are recommended by relevant institutions like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to be deployed at a large scale to achieve net-zero emissions and mitigate climate change within the next years. There is currently a lack of understanding on the social impacts of large-scale deployment of GGR methods, putting at risk social justice, as well as a rapid and sustainable deployment. Most GGR research focuses on the viability of these novel methods. The literature on the impacts falls short in exploring the issues of GGR deployment in a sustainable manner, especially missing what are the social impacts of these technologies. Via a mixed-methods approach of qualitative research, combining a thorough quick scope review, an embedded single case study of a local area, and a legislative review, this work explored how social justice may be at risk in the UK if a GGR method like bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) -the focus of this study- is deployed at large-scale. This BECCS study solely focuses on the social impacts, both providing a unique sustainable frame, interconnections, and areas of improvement. Social justice is at risk in the UK due to the lack of understanding of the social impacts. Impacts linked to land-use change and CO2 leakage risks, such as food insecurity, human health risks, and nutrient deficiency, are more likely to happen. Likelihood of impacts like community conflicts, exacerbation of poverty, and unfair net distribution, rely on other impacts or regulations over time. The UK plans to expand GGR may intensify negative social impacts due to resources competition. We therefore recommend for the UK GGR actors to embrace sustainable practices to reduce short- and long-term impacts. Controlling regulations should be applied to both biomass imports and local sources. Assessments of projects should evaluate long-term impacts and communicate with the public to raise awareness. Legislation and governance tools need to be created or updated to include GGR regulations. The research body should standardize the frame of GGR impacts and prioritize nonfragmented supply chain and case study-based research to ensure critical and reliable results, as well as a better insight of the nuances of the technologies and social impacts.
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