19 Jan 2023, 13:39
Julian Wettengel

Researchers call on governments to push CO2 removal from atmosphere in 2020s

Clean Energy Wire

Governments across the globe must use the 2020s to establish methods to remove CO2 from the atmosphere (carbon dioxide removals – CDR) to ensure that Paris Climate Agreement targets can be reached, said a group of research institutions in a report. “To limit warming to 2°C or lower, we need to accelerate emissions reductions. But the findings of this report are clear: we also need to increase carbon removal, too, by restoring and enhancing ecosystems and rapidly scaling up new CDR methods,” said Steve Smith of the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and Environment. The amount of deployment required in the second half of the century will only be feasible if the world sees substantial new deployment in the next ten years – novel CDR’s formative phase, write the researchers. The “State of Carbon Dioxide Removal” report for the first time gives an overview of global CDR efforts. It says almost all current CDR comes from conventional removal methods on land (2 gigatonnes CO2 per year), primarily via planting trees and managing soils. New CDR technologies, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), biochar, enhanced rock weathering, and direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS) remove only 0.002 gigatonnes CO2 annually and must be ramped up significantly, said the report. It was published by the University of Oxford, Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Co-author and SWP researcher Oliver Geden drew lessons for Germany: “The most important message of this report for the German government is that it must develop a carbon dioxide removal strategy and that it must decide what contribution such methods should have in reaching the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target,” Geden said during a press briefing. He added that the government must push the EU to clarify key issues surrounding CDR, such as whether it plays a role in the emissions trading system or how much to invest in innovation in this sector.

Experts argue that it is high time countries start building up a new industry of CO2 removers, scale it up and drive down prices, because virtually all pathways to reaching Paris Agreement targets require these in addition to reducing emissions. However, it is not a silver bullet, warn researchers, as relying on removal methods too much would draw attention away from the really important task of avoiding emissions altogether. The German government parties SPD, Green Party and FDP said in their coalition agreement that they “acknowledge the necessity of technical negative emissions and will develop a long-term strategy to deal with the approximately 5 percent of unavoidable residual emissions.”

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