Climate mitigation, negative emissions technology, and BECCS

The Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program's Policy and Science Interface (PSI) team has been considering how to mitigate climate change through the use of carbon-neutral bio-energy (BE), combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS), to produce negative-emissions conditions.

Biogas plant © eyewave | iStock

Biogas plant

In the first half of 2013 Earth’s atmospheric C02 level rose above 400 ppm. This is the highest level in Earth's history since the Pliocene, 5.3 to 2.6 million years ago.

It thus appears that we are headed for an overshoot scenario, as characterized by the climate change mitigation scenarios in the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report. The overshoot scenario is an emissions scenario in which atmospheric CO2 concentrations temporarily exceed predefined "dangerous" thresholds before reducing again and stabilizing to the "safe" level that would itself allow global warming to be stabilized at 2°C above pre-industrial levels. But how can this stabilization still be achieved?

One core ingredient in this type of mitigation mix would be negative emissions (NE), based mainly on carbon-neutral bio-energy. An NE scenario could arise if the same amount of CO2 being sequestered by feedstock growth were equal to that being emitted through the combustion of biomass for energy generation. The use of bio-energy would be combined with carbon capture and storage, which captures additional CO2 during the energy production phase. Together, this process is known as BECCS or bio-energy with carbon capture and storage [1].

In 2013 discussions about uncertainties of negative emissions (NE) plus optimal technologies (NETs) gathered speed both globally and at IIASA. ESM's Policy and Science Interface (ESM/PSI) group began organizing BECCS workshops in collaboration with the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 2011 [2] [3]. The third workshop [4] took place in 2013 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a special focus on BECCS from biofuels (i.e. ethanol from sugar cane). An ESM-co-authored journal article is forthcoming on the same topic [5].

ESM/PSI collaborated with two Indonesian governmental bodies - the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) and the Presidential Working Unit for Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4)  - to organize the second BECCS workshop in August 2013 in Jakarta with active participation from the IEA. This workshop focused on the status quo of BECCS activities and knowledge in Indonesia [6]. It was decided to form an Indonesian BECCS task force to further progress the local assessment and preparedness with respect to BECCS and other NETs, as well as bio-energy capacity and potentials in Indonesia.

ESM and TNT also joined forces with the Global Carbon Project (GCP) on the topic of NEs with a workshop at IIASA in April 2013 [7] and another with the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) in December 2013 in Tokyo, Japan [8].

One result of the NE management workshop in Japan was the development of a project proposal on Managing Negative Emissions Technology (MagNET) that will be suggested as a new activity under GCP in 2014. 

Figure 1. Coal power plant co-firing with 50% biomass for BECCS in Indonesia. Source: Kraxner et al. [9].


[1] Kraxner F, Aoki K, Leduc S, Kindermann G, Fuss S, Yang J, et al. (2014). BECCS in South Korea – Analyzing the negative emissions potential of bioenergy as a mitigation tool. Renewable Energy 2012;
[2] First IIASA-IEA BECCS workshop at IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria, 2011.
[3] Second IIASA-IEA-MEMR-UKP4 BECCS workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia, 2012.
[4] Third IIASA-IEA-USP-UNIDO BECCS workshop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2013.
[5] Pacca SA, Romeiro V, Moreira JR, Fuss S, Kraxner F(2014): BECCS potential in Brazil: achieving negative emissions in ethanol and electricity production based on sugarcane bagasse and other residues. Journal of Cleaner Production. Forthcoming.
[6] Second BECCS Workshop organized by UKP4 and MEMR in Jakarta, Indonesia, 2013.
[7] GCP-IIASA workshop on Negative emissions and the carbon cycle, IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria, 2013
[8] GCP-IIASA-MCC-NIES Workshop on Sustainable Negative Emissions: A Climate Risk Management Option? Tokyo, Japan, 2013.
[9] Kraxner F, Fuss S, Leduc S, Kindermann G, Kentaro A, Wicaksono A, Yowargana P, Heidug W. (2013). A geographically explicit analysis of BECCS potential in Indonesia. PPT delivered to 2nd Workshop on Bio-energy, CCS, and BECCS, "Enhancing carbon emission reduction through bio-energy and cabon capture and storage," held Jakarta, Indonesia, 24 August 2013.


Transitions to New Technologies (TNT) Program, IIASA;
Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), Berlin, Germany;
National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tokyo;
Global Carbon Project;
CCS Unit of the International Energy Agency, Paris;
Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR), Indonesia;
Presidential Working Unit for Supervision and Management of Development, Indonesia (UKP4), Indonesia.

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Last edited: 22 May 2014


Florian Kraxner

Deputy Program Director

Ecosystems Services and Management

T +43(0) 2236 807 233

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International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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