Funding carbon removal technologies is an important aspect of reaching a science-backed Net Zero* by 2050. When combined with global decarbonization*, it's part of our best pathway to tackle human-caused climate change.
The industry is just starting out and for it to be at the size we need by 2050, we need to fully commit to building our capability and capacity now.
It's widely accepted that we'll need to get to about 10 billion tonnes of carbon removal by 2050. That's from a few tens of thousands of tonnes in 2022.
So what is carbon removal?
It's anything that pulls planet-heating carbon dixoide out of the air and stores it safely for a period of time. The longer the better.
It's a range of solutions that include various nature-based, some tech-enabled and fully engineered approaches and technologies. For example:
Forests and oceans are crucial carbon sinks* which already draw down and locked away huge amounts of emissions. They'll be a part of the solution, but likely only about 20-30% of the removal we need.
On the more technological side, you might have heard about things like Direct Air Capture*, Bio-oil*, Biochar* or Enhanced Weathering* or Ocean Blue Carbon*. These approaches, and others being worked on, are going to be need to fill the gap.
Go deeper into the different types of carbon removal.
How does it fit with Net Zero?
Following the science-backed approach to Net Zero we advocate for 90% emissions reductions and decarbonization. Then using high permanence removals for the 10% hard-to-reduce remaining emissions.
Our angle on CDR is that even for that 10% it's a huge lift from where we are. Investing and growing the industry now is necessary to enable it to reach a size that it can remove the levels we need now and increasingly in the future.
Is this like offsetting?
Not so much. Offsetting* has been traditionally used to counterbalance the continued release of emissions, which only adds to the challenge of slowing and then reversing the increase in global average temperatures.
The vast majority (cough - 95% - cough) of offsets available don't remove carbon. Some may be good projects and have other societal benefits that aren't primarily about removing the gigatonnes* of harmful gases we humans have pumped out.
Where carbon removal is different is that the only reason many of the technologies exist is to take out and sequester* carbon dioxide - from the air or elsewhere - for hundreds to thousands of years, so it can't contribute to the continued heating of the planet and all the impacts of that.
Carbon removal is what's called highly additional, meaning the primary reason it exists is to do exactly as its name suggests.
This said, carbon removal can be used to offset emissions, though this should be only as part of a concerted effort to reduce as large a chunk of emissions as possible. It can also be used to remove older emissions that happened in the past.
We think that now is the time to fund and invest in carbon removal. Even if it is still more expensive than traditional offsets and it's not always viable to buy the same tonnes, it works in the way we need by literally removing the carbon dioxide so it can't contribute to climate change.
Find out more about Avoidance Offsets and the Voluntary Carbon Market.
Why should we fund carbon removal now?
There are a whole range of reasons. To us, some of the most compelling are:
- So the industry reaches about 10 billion tonnes of capacity by 2050 - the "net" bit of Net Zero
- The ratio of carbon removal in the Voluntary Carbon Markets needs to increase (compared to other approaches like avoidance or reduction)
- No one carbon removal type or company is going to be big enough on its own, we need a range of solutions and providers
- When combined with reducing emissions from everything we do, carbon removal will be a key tool to slow and then reverse climate change
- Funding and investing in it now helps to reduce the cost per tonne it takes to remove the carbon. Decreasing the cost by increasing demand will support the growth in supply of high-quality carbon removal options and capacity volume
More on why we should invest in carbon removal now.
If you'd like to go deeper into carbon removal join our free Carbon Removal Online Course. It starts every Monday and each installment is an easy-to-read in 5 to 10 minute burst!
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PS - you can find explainers on the terms in italics with astericks* in our Climate Buzzword Dictionary (yes, we're aware it's more of a glossary!)
Our ready-made, curated, portfolio of high quality carbon dioxide removal (CDR) solutions is live. It aims for the highest permanence-for-the-$-per-tonne that we can find.
We're excited to be working with an inspiring group of global CDR companies taking the fight to the Climate Crisis. They're doing amazing work that holds a tonne - pun intended - of promise.
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