Greenhouse gas removal (GGR) is increasingly seen as a key dimension of national and international climate policy. The need to deploy a portfolio of GGR technologies in order to decarbonise sectors with the ‘hardest-to-abate’ emissions, particularly to achieve net-zero emissions targets, has become increasingly evident in recent years. In May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published a report outlining a pathway to net-zero emissions in the UK, which comprised significant contributions from engineered and land-based removals. The target of net-zero emissions has since been enshrined in UK legislation, meaning that GGR will likely be part of the UK’s climate strategy. Plans for GGR deployment will therefore need to be set in motion in the short-term, in order to align with the timeframe proposed by the CCC.
Despite a growing body of research examining the role governance could and should play in GGR development and deployment, there is a gap in the literature relating to the social implications of removal activities. In particular, the roles of procedural justice (PJ) and social legitimacy (SL) have not been closely examined. This study comprises an analysis of relevant legislation, combined with a series of interviews conducted in the community of Selby (a proposed location for BECCS development) in order to investigate PJ and SL in the context of GGR. It is found that the existing legal framework operates PJ as a ‘tick-the-box’ exercise, failing to engage a wide range of interested stakeholders or to promote meaningful engagements. Moreover, the PJ landscape for GGR is unplanned and adapted from existing legislation and cannot meet the unique needs of this novel activity, such as the need to engage the wider national public given their interest in climate change mitigation. Research in Selby corroborates these findings, revealing a range of issues with engagement procedures, including disinterest or disillusionment with processes, a lack of accessible information, and a disparity between stakeholder expectations and GGR realities. Ultimately, it is only by conducting meaningful engagements, which adequately inform and include participants, that the role of social legitimacy can truly be understood and thus leveraged.