26 May 2020, 12:43
Julian Wettengel

CO₂ removal necessary to reach EU climate neutrality 2050 – study

Clean Energy Wire

An active removal of several hundred million tonnes of CO₂ from the atmosphere annually will be necessary for the EU to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, meaning the bloc has to start developing an adequate policy design, researchers Oliver Geden (SWP) and Felix Schenuit (Universität Hamburg) found in a study for the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). Some member states will need to have negative emissions balances by mid-century, as others need more time to reach carbon neutrality, the study found. An interesting political question will be which member states, sectors and companies will be allowed to have net-positive emissions in 2050, Geden, head of the EU research division at SWP, said at the an online presentation of the study. “Who already has to be below zero then? And who will pay?” The study highlights that “unconventional” climate action measures, such as afforestation and direct air capture, make a more flexible climate action policy possible but will exacerbate questions of burden sharing. The researchers stress that avoiding emissions must take precedence over carbon removal, arguing policymakers should subdivide targets into emission reduction and CO₂ removal targets, for example at a 9-to-1 ratio. The EU should put a focus on and increase funding for research and development of carbon removal technologies.

CO₂ removal has so far played a minor role in the European climate policy debate, although it is included in the Commission’s long-term climate strategy, which pursues the goal of becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050. As some emissions in certain sectors, such as agriculture, aviation and industry, are seen as practically unavoidable, these will have to be tackled by removing carbon from the atmosphere – amounting to several hundred million tons per year, says SWP. In Germany, chancellor Angela Merkel had put the contentious carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology back on the agenda, saying it was crucial for the country to reach climate neutrality by mid-century.

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