In confronting the multi-dimensional challenge of climate change, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is emerging as a pragmatic approach to mitigating global carbon emissions. On March 14th, 2014, experts from diverse, CCS-related backgrounds gathered at the Atlantic Council for the “ENGO Network on CCS: Roundtable Discussion to Chart Policy Pathways Forward.” Led by Global CCS Institute Senior Advisor, Policy and Regulatory for the Americas and nonresident senior fellow for the Atlantic Council’s Energy and Environment Program, Pamela Tomski, industry stakeholders discussed the existing policy landscape and the ways in which CCS can mature into a meaningful addition to the climate solutions toolbox.

Among the primary issues discussed was the need for further US-China cooperation on CCS deployment. According to several roundtable experts, CCS potential in China is promising, but the US must add collaborative value by leading the way toward widespread deployment. With respect to CCS pilot projects, China has some of the highest numbers worldwide. Experts largely agreed that the US should resolve initial uncertainties associated with CCS deployment in order to compensate for China’s low risk tolerance for new technologies and concepts.

Roundtable participants also agreed that CCS success is inextricably tied to effective regulation and policy management. To that end, participants discussed the need for long-term regulatory frameworks that incentivize CCS deployment. Monitoring and verification regimes for sequestration sites, performance-oriented requirements, and the enduring safety of CO2 storage sites constitute key components of competent CCS regulation; stakeholders must identify pathways for CO2 risk mitigation, and new liability frameworks must encourage the market.

The discussion also highlighted the need to narrow CCS-related financial and educational gaps that impede deployment progress. Skepticism within some corners of the environmental community and differing perspectives within the political community are barriers to success, influencing CCS investment and limiting the revenue stream for improved technology and use. Another issue for industry is that initial developer challenges are exacerbated by higher capital costs and risky development dollars—revealing the need for a sustainable financial structure to facilitate CCS deployment.

Participants at the roundtable event were largely optimistic as to the future of CCS, and the role of the ENGO network. ENGOs can foster positive dialogue and influence preferable CCS policy outcomes, particularly through media relations and clarifying the message that CCS is necessary in a world where fossil fuels will remain a crucial energy source for the foreseeable future. Overall, there was agreement as to the viability of ENGOs to deliver the correct message on CCS to relevant stakeholders. Additionally, there enthusiasm for the future of natural gas power plants fitted with CO2 capture. Focusing on the positive—a “glass half-full” approach, as one expert called it—will pave the way for CCS deployment and lower emissions. In the case of Canada, one authority set aside the country’s current policy inertia to praise Alberta for paving the way on CCS development. In Alberta, CCS subsidies and integration into climate policy can serve as a model for wider-scale approaches.

Experts from across the industrial and governmental spectrum appeared in agreement that consensus-building, informed regulations, public-private partnerships and multi-state cooperation collectively have the potential to transform CCS into a formidable practice to lessen the climate crisis.