Scaling carbon removal in the Voluntary Carbon Markets


Scaling the what in the who now?

You hear us correctly. We need to grow the amount of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR* for short) available in the Voluntary Carbon Markets (VCM* for short).

In 2021 the amount of offsets* bought in the patchwork of VCMs around the world reached a milestone.

$1 billion US.

This is progress, though as in many things, the small print matters.

At present the chunk of all those carbon credits that are real life CDR - that takes out and durably stores carbon from the atmosphere - was only about $50 million.

Not a lot.

The rest were carbon avoidance* offsets.

Avoidance offsets are so cheap to buy (from a few dollars per tonne). Also, it's debatable how much they will actually reduce or remove emissions IRL. By saying "debatable" we're probably being overly nice. We go into more detail in our free 3-day CDR course. And no, CDR is not the same as offsetting.

For CDR to reach the scale we need to be the 10% "net" bit in net zero by 2050, it's going to need to grow at a compounding annual rate of about 40% year on year for the next 30 years.

It’s quite the ramp up from where we are today.

The voluntary carbon market is still tiny by comparison to how big it needs to get by 2030 and on to 2050. It’s estimated that growing the carbon management sector to the level we need by 2050 is a $1 trillion per year market in waiting. Yes, that’s a “T”.

And pretty much 100% of that needs to be CDR in one form or another.

There’s been increasing interest in carbon removal and some great progress in the industry. In particular the advanced market commitment of $925 million to speed up new CDR development from a group of large tech companies. There’s also been an X-Prize for carbon removal, providing winners with an extra $1 million of funding.

Very positive, if still early, signs.

So we have a long way to go. The good news is that we are starting to make progress. It's possible and all to play for.  


Want to go deeper? Great!

Join our new, free, 3-day carbon removal course. It starts every Monday. This is what's in it:

Day 1 - Why is carbon removal important & its role

Day 2 - What is (& isn’t) carbon removal

Day 3 - Growing CDR + how to remove your emissions


Whether you're an interested human just wanting to learn more, or if you work for a company looking into CDR, there's something in there for you.

Have hope, make progress! 💚

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Climate Buzzword Dictionary

Carbon Removal (CDR) - the process of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and storing it somewhere safely where it can't contribute to global warming and climate change

Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) - Catch-all phrase for the voluntary purchase of carbon credits and the open market for them. In contrast to legally enforced, compliance carbon markets, there is often limited or no legislative requirement for individuals or organizations to purchase credits. Everything we're talking about in this course is related to the credits in the VCM.

Offsets / offsetting - buying parts of carbon avoiding, reducing or removing projects that avoid or remove emissions to reduce your own footprint

Net zero - a target to stop producing Greenhouse Gases from human activity by 2050. It combines reducing, removing as well as offsetting hard to eliminate emissions. Also called Net-zero 2050

Avoidance Offsets - projects that generate carbon credits as they do not emit carbon, thereby avoiding emissions in theory. For example solar power plants, EV car companies and landfill gas capture among others. Avoidance offsets can be used to offset emissions, even if no reduction or removal has taken place

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