The UK’s energy system is evolving. It is widely recognised that to meet our future energy needs whilst tackling the increasing threat of climate change, an energy strategy that integrates a broad range of low carbon energy technologies is required. Cutting carbon emissions, maintaining secure energy supplies and providing affordable energy have been policy goals high on the political agenda for some time, but there is increasing recognition that to accelerate decarbonisation of the economy more widely, transition pathways will need to include technical solutions such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The UK’s Net Zero Strategy (BEIS 2021) highlights the important role that CCS technologies will have across the whole energy system, including scaling up cleaner fuels such as hydrogen and biofuels, and removing emissions from industrial and manufacturing processes. The proposed ‘systems approach’ for achieving net zero outlined in the Net Zero Strategy acknowledges that the environment, society, and economy are interconnected components of the system, and that their interdependencies must be navigated carefully. The successful deployment of low carbon solutions relies not only on addressing key technical, political and economic challenges, but also on building public confidence, support and engagement. To ensure a just transition, geoscientists, environmental scientists and social scientists must work together to identify how best facilitate meaningful engagement and debate around CCS that includes evidence-based environmental, social and economic impacts and trade-offs.
Despite widespread societal support of a net zero future, the technologies that could enable such a transition are often contested, with recent research identifying a complex mix of values and beliefs, social contexts, understandings of risk and uncertainties, and types, scales and locations of technology amongst others as drivers that shape attitudes and perceptions.
This PhD studentship is an interdisciplinary collaboration between The University of Stirling and the British Geological Survey (BGS), bringing together geoscience, energy geographies, futures thinking and science communication expertise to explore how different ‘publics’ engage with CCS and related subsurface energy technologies as part of the transition to net zero, and to evaluate the impact of different evidence-based framings of these technologies within the net zero narrative. By building an understanding of how risk perceptions and public responses are shaped, and the social, environmental and economic trade-offs society are willing to make, this project aims to evaluate the impact of societal responses to CCS deployment and identify effective pathways to engage the public in delivering a fair, equitable and supported low carbon energy landscape.