An enabling or constraining force for Net Zero: How organisations and industry bodies can respond to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) scenarios (24.RP4.0196)

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been identified as a crucial component for Australian and global pathways to Net Zero by 2050 (IEA, 2021; Net Zero Australia, 2023), reflected by a 44% increase in planned, global CCS projects from 2021 to 2022 (Global CCS Institute, 2022). Despite sector-wide momentum, there is scant contemporary research of public perspectives on CCS in Australia and its role as an enabling or potentially constraining force to achieve Net Zero ambitions. These forces are outlined separately, next. 

First, CCS is acknowledged as an important technology that underpins the success of achieving Net Zero by 2050 targets. However, existing research on public perceptions of CCS in Australia are not contemporary, are too focussed on the communities directly impacted by or living near a CCS site (which can affect the way organisations communicate about CCS to broader geographic regions), or are linked only to coal-fired power plants (Anderson et al., 2012; Ashworth et al., 2014; 2008; Ferguson & Van Gent, 2017; Otto & Gross, 2021; Sharma et al., 2009). As a result, existing research lacks a consideration of CCS within the context of Net Zero scenarios and the complexity associated with energy security. In addition, research lacks consideration of the range of organisations involved in CCS deployment (e.g., as new projects emerge) and regulation, and their role as key influencers in public perception. There is scope to examine Australian narratives for CCS and how these are underpinned by trust, understanding, and acceptance of CCS in the context of its role in Net Zero across multiple energy sources and industries (e.g., cement, steel, or paper). 

Second, within industry and academic circles, risks associated with CCS are acknowledged and part of ongoing research and practice. However, the manifestation of risk or even near-miss events within new industries can act as a constraining force that challenges trust and can lead to misinformation (Mehta et al., 2020). Should near-miss or crisis events occur as CCS facilities are emerging (e.g., under construction), the potential trust spillover effect can be significant in how people trust the organisation, industry bodies, and regulators. As a result, knowing who should and how to respond is critical to the sector. 

Using a quasi-experimental design, this study will examine Australian’s current knowledge, opinions, and perceptions of CCS technology and its uses, and will test the impact of (i) strategic communication on CCS acceptance and policy support and (ii) near-miss or crisis communication strategies on CCS acceptance and trust in the technology, related organisations, and industries. The findings from this research will support governments, organisations and industries that plan to use CCS to support emissions reductions programs and will contribute to Australia’s pathway to Net Zero by 2050. 

Partners: Queensland University of Technology, Victorian Government Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions 

Researchers: Dr Ellen Tyquin, Prof Amisha Mehta, Prof Cameron Newton, Dr Nick Burke

Duration: 6 months