One of the key elements to successful carbon capture technology implementation is often overlooked—and that’s the workers who construct and maintain these projects.
In a welcome, safe return to in-person conferences, the Boilermakers union participated in two key energy and environment-focused events: the Carbon Capture Technology Expo in Bremen, Germany, in October 2021 and the 2021 United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Carbon Capture Technology Expo was held in tandem with the Hydrogen Technology Expo and included plenary topic tracks pertaining to carbon capture, use and storage; hydrogen production, storage and infrastructure; and fuel cell design, development and manufacturing.
International speakers and participants provided a wide range of perspectives and understanding on developing technologies, policies and how different nations are advocating for CCUS as a necessary climate change solution.
“One of the key elements to successful carbon capture technology implementation is often overlooked—and that’s the workers who construct and maintain these projects,” Richard MacIntosh, Assistant International Director of Climate Change Policy Solutions, said to fellow audience members during a session comment period. “Boilermakers are strong allies in advocating for CCUS. We know CCUS is a critical solution to mitigating climate change while also maintaining a mix of reliable energy sources and preserving jobs and social stability, and we are working to bring this technology to the forefront of climate-change discussions.”
While the small Boilermaker delegation attended a few hydrogen-track sessions, the main focus of their participation was on CCUS, looking for both potential work opportunities and connections to other CCUS allies.
Among the conference presenters was Lee Beck, who now serves as International Director for Carbon Capture for the Clean Air Task Force. As a long-time champion for CCUS, Beck has spoken at Boilermaker events about how the technology works and why it is important to Boilermaker work and climate-change mitigation. After meeting with her at the conference in Germany, the Boilermaker delegation provided Beck with CCUS video brochures to distribute at conference engagements in other parts of Germany.
“These types of conferences are just as important for staying on top of the latest CCUS technology advances as they are for aligning with new allies and reconnecting with our friends in this arena,” said Cory Channon, International Director of Climate Change Policy Solutions. “The pandemic stifled those vital interactions, so it’s good to be back out in the world building relationships and our voice for CCUS. We are constantly looking for opportunities to partner with others to bring more projects to life and get a jump on possible Boilermaker work.”
Channon was among the small, credentialed, Boilermaker delegation that also participated in COP26 in Glasgow. Due to pandemic precautions and restrictions, credentials to attend COP26 were scarce and in-person events limited.
As in past years, the Boilermakers delegation was part of an official Trade Union Non-Government Organization (TUNGO) sub-group and attended meetings to ensure trade union voices were heard in the COP26 negotiations. While the TUNGO sub-group as a whole continued to focus on advocating for “just transition,” Boilermakers also steadfastly continued to raise awareness of the potential negative impact of so-called “just” transition relative to unions like the Boilermakers, mine workers and others who have grown their skills and careers in fossil fuel industries.
‘Just transition’ doesn’t work for these workers, and we won’t be sitting idly by as they continue to get kicked when they’re down.
“‘Just transition’ doesn’t work for these workers, and we won’t be sitting idly by as they continue to get kicked when they’re down,” Channon said. Channon raised concerns about a rosy picture being painted by those in favor of “just transition.”
“Yes, there are times and places where ‘just transition’ is appropriate and must be implemented; however, we’ve got to focus on carbon capture technology, which is absolutely critical and must be applied in the energy sector and industrial and manufacturing in order to reach the Paris Agreement climate-change mitigation goals. The evidence is overwhelming that CCUS must be implemented.”
Despite a lack of in-person side events to showcase the Boilermakers’ position on carbon capture, the union found a way to get the message across. A new video was created to catch the attention of environmental extremists who call for a total “leave it in the ground” approach against fossil fuels. The video points out the logic flaw of “leaving it in the ground” in favor of supposed “green” alternatives and highlights the many critical components of batteries, solar and wind technologies—components that are all mined from the ground and often under questionable ethical circumstances (watch the video at www.cleanerfutureccus.org).
Boilermakers left behind business card-size notes in Glasgow printed with a QR code linking to the video and posted the link to event group chats.
As world leaders negotiated solutions to climate-change mitigation, ranging from carbon taxes and tax credit incentives to methane abatement and deforestation pledges, by the end of COP26, the urgency to pull the plug on fossil fuels was at least slightly diminished from previous COP sentiments, and carbon capture technologies appeared to have gained favor as a necessary component.
“It was encouraging to start reading global media reports and seeing carbon capture finally getting more footing. This has to happen,” Channon said.
Ultimately, the Glasgow Climate Pact was adopted by almost 200 countries in attendance at COP26.
“The outcome of COP26 is a compromise. It reflects the interests, the contradictions and the state of political will in the world today. It is an important step, but it is not enough,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the conclusion of the conference, as published on the United Nations’ website.
For the UN’s full day-to-day recap and more about COP26, visit: www.un.org/en/climatechange/cop26.