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