International talks in London have closed with substantial agreement among the largest industrial nations on the development and deployment of breakthrough carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

The Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) held its third ministerial level meeting to call attention to the urgency of finding solutions to the enormous problems in meeting carbon capture targets created by the world’s huge coal burn, now and in the future, and to nudge the decisions taken at December’s world climate summit in Copenhagen towards incorporating this urgency in its recommendations and commitments.

UK Energy and Climate Change secretary Ed Miliband, who co-chaired the meeting with Norway’s minister of Petroleum and Energy, Terje Riis-Johansen, said:

“Today some of the world’s biggest coal consuming nations have shown that ‘business as usual’ on coal – won’t do.

“There’s agreement that we need countries around the world to finance demonstrations, as we are doing in the UK, we need technology co-operation for know-how and capacity building and a financing agreement at Copenhagen that can drive CCS forwards in developing countries.”

The UK’s assumption of policy leadership (which contrasts strongly with its low position technologically) derives from being the first country in the world to institute a regulatory policy of any kind on CO2 emissions from coal fired plant. In April this year Ed Milliband announced that no new coal-fired power stations would be built in Britain unless they capture and bury at least 25% of greenhouse gases immediately and undertake to reach 100% by 2025.

But along with regulatory issues, finance was seen by the meeting as the biggest barrier to seeing more full scale integrated CCS projects in operation. There are 64 full chain (though not full scale) integrated CCS projects under way in the world and 7 are operational. Ministers also considered a new IEA CCS roadmap that suggests 100 CCS demonstration projects are needed by 2020 to combat climate change, and half of these should be in developing countries.

The main outcomes of the meetin,g, enshrined in a Communique issed after the event, were to esablish broad agreement on action, and to bring China into the process, an outcome whose importance can hardly be exaggerated. China’s ministerial delegation committed itself to a new collaboration on CCS projects and to the construction of a series of demonstration projects in the country, and Cwill host the next ministerial level CSLFmeeitng in 2012..

Key details included

– agreement that more than 20 industrial scale CCS demonstrations could be needed by 2020, including in developing countries, with knowledge sharing between projects.

– support for capacity building to enable developing countries to host demonstrations and for rapid CCS deployment once it’s proven.

– the strongest signal yet, from developed and developing countries alike, that CCS must be incentivised as part of a global climate deal in Copenhagen this December.

The CSLFwas inaugurated in 2003. Currently it has 23 members: 22 countries including China, US, Australia, Canada, South Africa and UK, and the European Commission. CSLF member countries represent over 3.5 billion people, or approximately 60% of the world’s population. In general, Ministerial Meetings are the CSLF’s highest decision-making body, meeting as needed to provide policy and technical direction for the organization. The most recent ministerial meeting was held in Melbourne, Australia in 2004. The inaugural meeting was in June 2003, in Tysons Corner, VA, USA.