Climate campaigners are highlighting a ‘gaping chasm’ in Scotland’s efforts to meet climate targets after a Scottish Government study rapidly scaled down expectations for so-called ‘negative emissions technologies’ which claimed they could capture carbon.

Campaigners said that ‘reality must finally be dawning on Ministers’ after the specialist research downgraded the estimation of how much carbon could be captured by these controversial technologies from 5.7 Megatons of CO2 in 2032 to just 2.2 Megatons per year by 2030.

In 2021 Ministers were warned by scientists and campaigners that their plan to meet targets were dangerously over-reliant on unproven technologies that claimed they could suck carbon from the air and capture it from burning trees or waste. Another Scottish Government report in 2022 admitted progress was slower than they predicted and that these technologies would be unable to deliver this decade.

Campaigners are urging Ministers to stop throwing time and money into the ‘sinkhole’ of carbon capture technology. £100 million of public money has already been wasted attempting CCS at Peterhead back in 2015 and now the Scottish Government have offered £80million to the fossil fuel industry-backed Acorn carbon capture and storage project.

Ministers are also considering the approval of an additional gas burning power station with promises of carbon capture in Peterhead, currently Scotland’s biggest polluter.

Friends of the Earth Scotland climate campaigner Alex Lee (they) commented,

“Reality is finally dawning on Ministers that the promises of negative emissions technology are little more than hot air. The Scottish Government has been distracted for too long by carbon capture and these other dangerous schemes resulting in a gaping chasm in plans to meet climate commitments.

“Ministers have been repeatedly warned about their over-reliance on these rogue technologies and the time and money they have poured into the sinkhole of carbon capture rather than being deployed in working climate solutions. 

“Ministers should instead put the needs of people and the planet first, and scale up investment in public transport and home insulation that will improve lives and bring down climate pollution. Scotland’s energy future should be focused on readily available and more affordable options such as wind, solar, renewable heat and energy efficiency measures.

“Carbon capture is little more than greenwash from industries who are fighting to the deny the reality of the changes needed in energy generation, land use and how we reduce waste. Politicians in Scotland can no longer ignore the clear warnings about carbon capture and storage as a technology that could put our environment and climate at real risk of danger.”

A recent report from the Centre for International Environmental Law has criticised the new push to massively scale up offshore CCS by pooling CO₂ waste in storage hubs under the world’s oceans, including the North Sea. This analysis highlighted how this untested approach presents uncalculated risks and unprecedented monitoring challenges.


From NETs Feasibility Study Executive Summary

“This study estimates that the maximum Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs) potential achievable in Scotland in 2030 is 2.2 MtCO2/year …. This is significantly lower than the stated NETs ambition in the CCPu of 5.7 MtCO2/year by 2032. ”

Ministers produced a Climate Change Plan update (CCPu) in 2020 which calculated that these NETs would be responsible for cutting almost 20% of Scottish emissions reductions by 2030, rising to a quarter of cuts as soon as 2032. Total emissions target for 2030 is 20.6 Megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

In March 2021, Holyrood Committees scrutinising the Climate Plan update urged Ministers to review the credibility of these NETs proposals.


In June 2022, the Climate Change Plan Monitoring Report saw the Scottish Government admit NETs cannot deliver “at the pace assumed in the CCPu.”

Centre for International Environmental Law report from November 2023 ‘Deep Trouble: The Risks of Offshore Carbon Capture and Storage’

Heavy dependence on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to reach net zero targets around 2050 would be “highly economically damaging”, costing at least $30 trillion more than a route based primarily on renewable energy, energy efficiency and electrification, a December 2023 report from Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment has found.
“The cost of CCS implementation has not declined at all in 40 years, in contrast to renewable technologies like solar, wind, and batteries, which have fallen in cost dramatically.”

Scottish Government Energy Strategy wants the North Sea to become a European hub for carbon dumping
Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan – Page 121

Scottish Government puts £80million on table for north east Acorn project

UK government spent £100m on cancelled carbon capture project at Peterhead

Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 73 national member groups, and 5,000 local activist groups.