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New participation and communication strategies for neighbours of CO2 capture and storage operations

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Communicating the benefits of climate change mitigation

New technologies may present solutions, but they must also gain the trust of the public. An EU-funded study examined what needs to be done to ensure that citizens are actively engaged when it comes to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

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CCS – the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2) and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere – has been identified as a possible means of climate change mitigation. Public concerns over safety, however, present a challenge to its widespread implementation. Recent experience has suggested that effective local communication efforts and stakeholder involvement could significantly improve the chances of successfully developing related strategies. The 'New participation and communication strategies for neighbours of CO2 capture and storage operations' (NEARCO2) project was launched to examine and put forward recommendations to achieve these objectives. The EU-funded project found that CCS projects are often initiated by teams or consortia of parties with different backgrounds, skills, knowledge, resources and organisational cultures. As a consequence, there can be a lack of internal alignment. NEARCO2 showed the importance of consistency within CCS projects' communication strategies, and how participation strategies can be tailored to account for local conditions. In addition, the project also identified a clear public knowledge gap when it comes to climate change, CO2 and CCS. While promotional material has been developed, the project team emphasised that bridging this knowledge gap will require a substantial effort. Enhancing widespread awareness of CO2 capture and storage as an important climate mitigation option should also be a priority. Recommendations put forward are relevant for industries and local governments wishing to involve citizens in decision making on a newly planned CCS operation. The tools are also relevant to national authorities that want to include CCS in their national abatement policies and need to convince large groups. Furthermore, although NEARCO2 focused on CCS projects, many lessons were learned that are also relevant to other energy technologies, such as wind, bioenergy and nuclear, for which public resistance has become an issue. Project efforts thus offer some hope that a focused communications approach can assuage public fears regarding the safety of related emerging technologies.

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