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9.04.2021

Forward thinking and climate-friendly legislation

Photo by Benjamin Hardman

Media‘s reporting from the Icelandic parliament, Althingi, is unfortunately often myopic, focusing on matters of contention while skipping out on the great number of bills passed in cross-partisan unison.

Recently, Althingi passed one such bill that is of paramount importance for climate action but has mostly gone unnoticed by the media. The legislation‘s objective is to ensure the safe capture, transport, and geological storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Iceland. The legislation involves a full implementation of the European Union‘s CCS directive, as required by the terms of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement. The directive is, however, adopted in an innovative manner, distinguishing between two storage strategies – mineral storage of CO2 and the more traditional supercritical storage of CO2. The Carbfix method, which entails capturing CO2 and dissolving it in water before injecting it into basaltic formations underground where it rapidly transforms to stone, is therefore now clearly grounded within the Icelandic legislation as a feasible climate action solution.

Carbfix is 50% cheaper than buying emission allowance

In accordance with the new legislation, emitters, including those that fall under the EU‘s Emission Trading System (ETS), can now use the Carbfix technology to reduce their emissions. Althingi has therefore created an incentive for companies to invest in technological solutions, such as the one developed by Carbfix, rather than paying for emission allowances, whose price has increased rapidly lately and currently stands at about €42/tonne. In comparison, the cost of applying the Carbfix technology for reducing emissions at the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant in Iceland is around €21/tonne.

The new legislation also creates oportunities for transporting captured  CO2 across borders for permanent mineral storage in Iceland. If the CO2 is captured from operations subject to the ETS, the amount of CO2 stored would be subtracted from the emittor‘s emissions accounting. The legislation thereby creates a foundation for a new, foreward thinking and climate-friendly industry, establishing Iceland furthermore as a global leader in the permanent mineral storage of CO2.

Important legislative innovation

Unfortulately, the regulatory frameworks of individual countries and unions are a step behind the latest technological advancements, which can be a hindrance in adopting and scaling up new solutions. In a way this is normal, as it is not in the nature of legislation to look further than the present solutions.

But now, when we are faced with the pressing challenge of exponentially scaling up climate solutions, it is more important than ever that legislative bodies look further ahead, and ensure that regulations support these actions rather than hinder them.

It is therefore not sufficient to only look to technological innovation in the fight agains climate change, we need legislative innovation as well. Althingi and the Icelandic government have certainly done so when they implemented the EU‘s CCS directive into Icelandic legislation. Now other states, as well as the EU itself, must update their own regulations in a foresighted manner, so that new and economical climate solutions such as the Carbfix technology can be rapidly implemented and brought to scale.

We are all on the same team when it comes to climate action, and all parties, including legislators, must bring their A game. The new Icelandic legislation for geological storage of CO2 is a great win for the climate, but it is imperative that we immediately start thinking about our next move, using this legislation as a stepping stone to reduce emission and to build up a new and climate-friendly industry.

Photo by Benjamin Hardman