The battle of carbon removal becomes a dangerous distraction


Some argue that governments should also create separate targets to ensure that carbon removal (sometimes called “negative emissions”) does not account for emission reduction goals.

“Failure to make such a separation has already hampered climate policy, exaggerating the projected future contribution of negative emissions to climate models, while obscuring the extent and pace of investment needed to provide negative emissions,” McLaren and others in Climate Frontiers in 2019.

Sweden he made a version of it, setting a goal of cutting emissions by at least 85% below 1990 levels by 2045 and relying heavily on coal removal to get the rest of the road to zero. The European Union includes a similar provision in the proposal European Climate Law, limiting the role of carbon sequestration to 225 million tonnes, or just over 2 percentage points of the overall target: a 55% reduction in emissions by 2030.

“It is now being pointed out that the vast majority of EU mitigation efforts must be made by reducing emissions, with carbon removal helping to make the mile even stronger,” he said. he wrote Frances Wang and Mark Preston Aragonès, both of the ClimateWorks Foundation.

Initial stage and high risk

Sally Benson, a professor of energy resource engineering at Stanford, says the money she sees flowing into carbon removal startups looks very similar to the situation in clean technology in the 2000s, when investments poured in. technologies that were very early and high risk.


Many of these investments have not been paid for, since companies developing advanced biofuels and alternative solar materials have failed in the market.

“I’m a little worried that’s where we’re at with carbon sequestration technologies,” he said in an email. “Some of those are the most mature and that can succeed and make a material difference, like BECCS [bioenergy with carbon capture and storage], receive much less attention compared to less mature technologies such as direct air capture and mineralization ”.

But she stresses that these are probably crucial technologies in the future, and “we’re going to start somewhere.”

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