Module 13 Public awareness and community consultation



For CCS to be implemented on the scale needed to avoid dangerous climate change, work needs to be undertaken to inform and engage communities. The two aspects are broad public awareness about CCS and engaging the communities where CCS projects will be undertaken.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module you will:

  • Understand the difference between public awareness and community consultation;
  • Be familiar with the conclusions of current social research into awareness about CCS; and
  • Be familiar with the principles for effective community engagement


Governments around the world now regard CCS as a one of the measures needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid dangerous climate change. Energy producers and other industries are beginning to look towards scaling up the technology. Consequently, the need to develop public awareness and acceptance of CCS as a climate change mitigation measure is now urgent. Already there are some projects that are unable to proceed due to community opposition.

Onshore CCS infrastructure and storage sites will be vital for implementing the technology in the time frame required. This may mean pipelines through and storage under populated areas. As the science and technology involved is complex, the messages about the need for CCS and the risks of CCS in the context of climate change need to be easily understandable and, most importantly, delivered by groups that communities trust.

There are two aspects to developing public awareness about CCS and working with communities where CCS projects are located. These are social research and communication. Social research is important to inform governments, develop policy and formulate communication strategies. Good communication is vital to a CCS project and whether that project proceeds.

Groups that have been active in the area of developing social research principles behind engaging the public and the community on CCS include:

  • WRI - World Resources Institute;
  • C3 – Climate Change Central;
  • C2S2RN – Carbon Capture and Storage Social Research Network – an informal group; and
  • CSIRO – Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

There have been a number of studies into the public awareness of CCS and public acceptance of CCS, as well as case studies in public consultation for various projects.

The APEC materials "Community Outreach Strategy for CO2 Capture and Storage Projects", which accompany this APEC training manual, are developed to provide a step-by-step strategy for community engagement.

Figure 13.1: A timeline showing social research and communications activities. From An integrated roadmap of communications activities in Australia and beyond (CLET/CSIRO Report No:P2007/975).

Figure 13.2: CCS communication activities. From An integrated roadmap of communications activities in Australia and beyond (CLET/CSIRO Report No: P2007/975).

Public awareness

The Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Social Research Network (C2S2RN) is an informal network set in up in January 2006. A major workshop, the Carbon Capture and Storage Communication Workshop, was held in September 2007 in Canada, hosted by Climate Change Central (C3). The key research findings were that:

  • Once formed, opinions can be slow to change;
  • Understanding of CCS remains low;
  • There is a need to collaboratively provide balanced, valid and accessible information from a range of sources (i.e. industry, government and NGO);
  • Face-to-face dialogue is the most effective way to communicate;
  • Communication must be set in the context of climate change;
  • Stringent regulation and monitoring should be an integral component of any CCS project; and
  • CCS should not be implemented at the expense of investments in renewable energy (from Carbon Capture and Storage Communication Workshops Final Report.)

Surveys on knowledge of CCS were conducted in Japan in 2003 and 2007. The researchers found that few people know about CCS, and those that did know about CCS generally supported it. Some of the questionnaires contained additional information. Reports of concerns about CCS which were included in the questionnaire were found to have a negative influence on acceptance of CCS. Information on industrial activities and natural analogues for CO2 storage impacted positively on groups' opinions about CCS. In addition, understanding the effectiveness of CCS was highly influential (Itaoka et al, 2009).

Stephens et al (2009) reported on a seminar on a CCS educational workshop held in the US in which the participants were surveyed about their attitude to CCS prior to the seminar, and then again after the seminar. In general, they found that the level of support for advancing CCS increased particularly amongst younger and more educated stakeholders.

Public concerns about CCS and its perceived benefits, found throughout various communications activities, have common themes, as outlined below (Ashworth et al, 2007).


  • Safety risks of a CO2 leak.
  • The risk of contamination of ground water.
  • Any harm to plants and animals near storage sites.
  • Assumption CO2 is explosive.
  • Is it the wrong solution for climate change, a bandaid?
  • Are there enough available storage sites?
  • It appears to require a large infrastructure which does not necessarily exist today.
  • Long term liability issues.
  • Cost – economic efficiency.
  • Scale required for successful CO2 mitigation.
  • It is an unknown technology.
  • Should not be pursued at the expense of renewable energy sources.


  • It could provide a good bridge to the future.
  • If successful can reduce large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • Allows continued use of fossil fuels which provides an economic advantage for some economies.
  • Energy security around the world.
  • Helps to clean up coal-fired power plants for developing economies that need access to energy.
  • Allows emissions to be reduced without having to change lifestyles too much.

Communicating CCS in Italy

As an example of a long-term communication project, Instituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, INGV, has communicated about CCS to the public in Italy and surrounding regions as part of the EU ZEP program over the period 2000-2008. Activities included attending science festivals with an interactive CCS scaled model, participation in debates and conferences and meeting with NGOs.

Italy is geodynamically active with CO2 being naturally diffusely degassed (that is, emerging over time in small amounts over large areas). INGV have over 500 continuous monitoring stations to measure CO2-related parameters and micro-seismicity throughout Italy and surrounding regions. Their message was that despite billions of tonnes of CO2 being located underground in Italy, and strong seismic events throughout history, there have not been any large CO2 bursts. One of the areas with diffuse degassing structures (DDS) is a WWF bird reserve. They also examined the naturally occurring CO2-rich mineral waters as an analogue for storage in aquifers (Quatrocchi, 2009).

Public acceptance of CCS in Norway

Norway has the world's first commercial CCS project, the Sleipner Project. It also has an active NGO community who are involved in issues of conservation and the environment, including marine protection and climate policy. One of these, the Bellona Foundation, is a multidisciplinary international environmental NGO based in Oslo. It hosts a comprehensive website on CCS. Others NGOs such as Greenpeace Norway oppose CCS.

As the Sleipner Project raised no significant debate, the offshore and remote location is considered to be a key part of the public and NGO acceptance of CCS. Indeed, the attention drawn to the technology has led to calls for further CCS projects in Norway (IEA, 2007).

Project-based community engagement (community consultation)

World Resources Institute principles

Recent events in Germany and the Netherlands have highlighted the importance of involving the community in CCS projects from the early stages. The World Resources Institute (WRI) published a report – Breaking Ground: Engaging Communities in Extractive and Infrastructure Projects in 2009 (following on from the 2007 publication Development without Conflict: The Business Case for Community Consent). This report describes the broad principles required for industries such as the mining and petroleum industry to conduct meaningful community engagement in projects. WRI is following this up with Guidelines for Community Engagement regarding Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) Projects to be published later this year.

People living near a proposed CCS project who are potentially impacted by the project should be engaged as part of the CCS project and it is this group that is referred to as "community". Apart from the issues of social justice, there is evidence that community engagement during the development of projects, while adding to the initial costs, significantly reduces the costs incurred through lost project time or even cancellation of projects.

The WRI principles for effective community engagement are:

  • Prepare communities before engaging;
  • Determine what level of engagement is needed;
  • Integrate community engagement into each phase of the project cycle;
  • Include traditionally excluded stakeholders;
  • Gain free, prior and informed consent;
  • Resolve community grievances through dialogue; and
  • Promote participatory monitoring by local communities.

Prepare communities before engaging

While communities have their own decision-making structures, they may need time to prepare for engagement in a CCS project. Aspects of this preparation include training community representatives, site visits to CCS projects and access to legal and technical advisors. Project proponents could benefit from cultural training and identifying decision makers through participatory mapping.

Determine what level of engagement is needed

Levels of engagement are informing, consulting and negotiating. Informing communities that decisions have been taken is not appropriate in the early stages of a project. Access to information should be provided before main activities relating to community engagement begin, communities should be engaged before taking decisions and the project proponents should respond to community input by demonstrating how the input has affected decision making. Negotiations may need to take place prior to project commencement (e.g. if land needs to be purchased or access rights are required).

Integrate community engagement into each phase of the project cycle

Engaging the community at all stages of the project (pre-feasibility, feasibility, construction, operation and closure and ongoing monitoring) is important to ensure that the community can prepare for and respond to the changing stages in the project. Site selection for CO2 storage should include a social impact assessment along with environmental impact assessments.

Include traditionally excluded stakeholders

It may be necessary to identify marginalized groups within a community. Separate meetings may need to be held to enable groups to speak comfortably. Identifying communities outside the immediate vicinity of the project which may be affected is also important.

Gain free, prior and informed consent

This can be a challenge in communities with a mix of indigenous and non-indigenous people, or when several groups have right to the same land/resources or when the government does not to recognise the rights of various groups. However, one effective way of obtaining consent is by negotiating an impact benefit statement at the end of the feasibility phase.

Resolve community grievances through dialogue

A formal grievance mechanism can help to detect systemic problems in projects, avoid issues with personnel changes and help to meet the needs of diverse communities. These grievance mechanisms should be low-cost, inclusive of all stakeholders and record and track progress.

Promote participatory monitoring by local communities

The community should have access to information about the project. In addition, there is an opportunity with CCS projects to involve the local community in scientific sampling. A CCS project which will require ongoing monitoring and the involvement of trained members of the local community in this can build the skill base of the community and improve their understanding of the project.

Seven steps to community engagement

The APEC Community Outreach Strategy for CO2 Capture and Storage Projects guides projects through seven steps to engage the community in a project.

These are

Step 1: Develop a team and a plan to communicate with the public about your planned CO2 storage project

Step 2: Identify and prioritize community groups relevant to the project

Step 3: Define and test the interests, priorities and concerns of community groups

Step 4: Prepare communications plan, messages and materials

Step 5: Delivering the messages and listening to community groups

Step 6: Measuring the effectiveness of the outreach

Step 7: Develop a long-term communication plan with community groups

Figure 13.3: Local residents are briefed by project leaders in a community reference group meeting for the CO2CRC Otway Project (courtesy of CO2CRC).

Examples of CCS community engagement

A number of existing CCS projects developed community engagement strategies which include the use of focus groups and community consultations.

Three of the US DOE's Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships, West Coast (WESTCARB), Southwest (SWP) and Midwest (MRSCP) have conducted a series of focus groups. They found that social factors including past experience with government were of greater concern than concerns about the risks of the technology itself. Key questions that the public are likely to raise and should be considered by project proponents before beginning community consultation concern

  • who is responsible for the project;
  • will they take care of the community if things go wrong;
  • will the community have any say in the project and; and
  • what are the benefits to the community of the project (Bradbury et al, 2009).

Bielicki and Stephens (2008) outline four examples of public engagement on CCS in the US. The examples serve to illustrate that there are many different groups for which communications strategies can be designed and the questions that the public raise are instrumental in shaping those strategies.

At the C3 CCS Communication Workshops in Canada, Mary Griffiths of the Pembina Institute provided advice about engaging local communities.

  • Provide poster displays with general information on CCS and its geological aspects prior to talks.
  • Have an experienced facilitator and clear ground rules.
  • Have speakers who are good communicators, but have technical experts available.
  • Use relevant examples (e.g. the Weyburn Enhanced Oil Recovery project, or acid gas injection).
  • Have opportunities for a question and answer session.
  • Record the information and put posters, presentations, questions and answers on a website so that the wider public can learn as well (from Carbon Capture and Storage Communication Workshops Final Report).

The CO2CRC Otway Project – community consultation in action

The CO2CRC Otway Project in south-western Victoria, Australia, is a research demonstration project of the injection, storage monitoring and verification of CO2. The project commenced in 2003 and injection began in April 2008. To date, in Stage 1 of the project, 65,000 tonnes of CO2 has been injected into a depleted gas field 2.25 km below dairy-farming paddocks. The first discussion with the landowners and local council took place in early 2004. Further community consultation for the Project was developed and modified on the results of social research carried out in 2006, comprising qualitative research and a quantitative survey. Community consultation meetings have been held with the local community throughout 2006 and 2007 and since injection began to the present. The community meetings include landholders, local businesses, environmental groups, government officials, the local media and the general community.

Figure 13.4: The CO2CRC Otway Project community reference group meets on the first birthday of the Project to discuss the next stage of research (courtesy of CO2CRC).

Fact sheets and community newsletters also underpin the community consultation process. CO2CRC has a local Community Liaison Officer who lives in the area. She personally visits landowners to inform them of upcoming activities such as seismic monitoring. The community liaison officer is able to bring concerns of individual landowners and the community to the project manager for resolution.

Scientific monitoring of the stored CO2 is carried out in a community-friendly way. The visiting scientists are briefed on the concerns of residents and landowners and how to conduct their experiments with consideration for the needs of the community. In addition, local university students are involved in the collection of water samples as part of the monitoring program.

A community reference group of landowners, regulators, local NGOs and project management was established in the early stages of the project. Initially, meetings were held frequently and are now held prior to major changes in the project's operation and when significant results are obtained.

The Otway Project has general community acceptance and mainly positive media coverage. A second stage of the Project will begin shortly to research CO2 storage in saline aquifers.


Anderson C. Social Research, Otway CCS project. Presented at CCSa Seminar, Melbourne 26 – 27 February, 2007.

Ashworth, P., Mayhew, M., Millar, F. And Boughen, N. An integrated roadmap of Communication Activities around Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in Australia and Beyond. cLET/CSIRO report P2007/975, October 2007.

Bielicki, J. M., and Stephens, J. C. Public Perception of Carbon Captue and Storage Technology. Report on a workshop orgainsed by the Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at a Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Bradbury, J., Ray, I., Peterson, T., Wade, S., Wong-Parodi, G. and Feldpausch, A. The Role of Social Factors in Shaping Public Perceptions of CCS: Results of Multi-State Focus Group Interviews in the U.S. Energy Procedia 1 (1) pp 4665-4672, 2009.

Carbon Capture and Storage Communication Workshops Final Report, available online at [accessed 10 August, 2009]

IEA, 2007. Legal aspects of storing CO2: Update and recommendations. Available at [accessed 1 October , 2009]

Itaoka, K., Okuda, Y., Saito, A. and Akai, M. Influential information and factors for social acceptance of CCS: the 2nd round survey of public opinion in Japan. In Energy Procedia 1(1) pp 4803-4810, 2009.

Quattrochi F. Communication Strategy for a public information campaign on CO2 geological storage and on CCS as a whole: the case history in Italy from 2003 to 2008. In Energy Procedia 1(1) pp 4689-4696, 2009.

Sharma, S., Cook, P., Berly, T. and Lees, M. The CO2CRC Otway Project: Overcoming challenges from planning to execution of Australia's first CCS project. In Energy Procedia, 1(1) pp 1965-1972, 2009.

Stephens, J., Bielicki, J. and Rand, G. Learning about carbon capture and storage: Changing stakeholder perceptions with expert information. In Energy Procedia 1 (1), pp4655-4663, 2009.

World Resources Institute. Breaking Ground – Engaging Communities in Extractive and Infrastructure Projects. World Resources Institute, 2009. Available online at [accessed 10 August, 2009]


World Resources Institute:

CO2CRC Otway Project: