six priorities for extracting carbon from the air

By Cameron Hepburn, Professor of Environmental Economics, University of Oxford and Steve Smith, Executive Director, Oxford Net Zero, University of Oxford

London, May 30 (The Conversation) To achieve net zero emissions by 2050, global emissions must be reduced faster and deeper than the world has yet managed. But even then, some hard-to-treat pollution sources – in aviation, agriculture, and cement manufacturing – may linger longer than we would like. It will take time for clean alternatives to arrive and replace them.

This means that the world must also find and improve ways to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere to stabilize the climate. Merely meeting the UK’s net zero target will likely require the elimination of 100 million tonnes of CO₂ per year, similar in size to current emissions from the country’s largest emitting sector, road transport, but reverse.

The UK government’s announcement of £ 31.5million (US $ 44.7million) to support carbon removal research and development is welcome. And while testing new technologies will be helpful, there are many social issues that need to be addressed for greenhouse gas elimination to be successful.

Done well, carbon removal could be the perfect accompaniment to emission reductions, putting the climate back in balance. Done poorly, it could be a dangerous distraction.

Successfully remove

Greenhouse gases can be removed from the atmosphere in several ways. CO₂ can be captured by plants as they grow or taken up by soils, minerals or chemicals, and trapped in the biosphere, oceans, underground, or even in long-lived products. life such as building materials (including wood or aggregates).

These stores vary in size and stability, and the methods of introducing carbon into them vary in cost and availability. Trees, for example, are literally a plug and play way to absorb carbon with many additional benefits. But the carbon they store can be released by fires, pests, or logging. Storing CO₂ underground provides a more stable reservoir and could hold 100 times as much, but air injection methods are expensive and at an early stage of development. Nevertheless, a multitude of innovations, competitions and start-ups are emerging.

Some experts fear that carbon removal is a mirage – especially at the massive scales supposed in some ways to achieve net zero – that distracts from the critical task of reducing emissions. So how do we make moves successfully?

As scientists who will lead a national center for greenhouse gas elimination, we have outlined six priorities.

1. A clear vision

The UK government has yet to decide how much CO₂ it wants to remove from the atmosphere, what specific methods it prefers, and whether 2050 is an endpoint or a stepping stone to others. extractions beyond. A clear vision would help people see the merits of investing to phase out CO₂, while indicating which sources of emissions should be stopped altogether.

2. Public support

The elimination of carbon at the scales under discussion will have major implications for communities and the environment. Entire landscapes and livelihoods will change. The government is already aiming to plant enough trees to cover twice the area of ​​Bristol each year.

These changes must provide further benefits and align with the values ​​of local populations. People not only care about the removal techniques themselves, but also how they are financed and supported, and will want to see that reducing emissions remains the priority.

Consultation is vital. Democratic processes, such as citizens’ assemblies, can help find solutions that appeal to different communities, thereby increasing their legitimacy.

3. Innovation

The types of approaches that permanently eliminate CO₂ are at an early stage of development and cost hundreds of pounds per tonne of CO₂ removed. They are more expensive than most decarbonization measures such as energy efficient lighting, insulation, solar and wind power, or electric cars. Government support for research and development and policies to encourage deployment are also essential to spur innovation and reduce costs.

4. Incentives

How does a business benefit from removing CO₂ from the air? With the exception of trees, there are no long-term government-backed incentives for carbon removal and storage.

The UK government can learn from efforts in other countries. The 45Q tax rebate and California’s low-carbon fuel standard and the Australian Carbon Farming Initiative both provide incentives for companies to capture and store CO₂.

Leaving the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy means the UK has its own opportunity to pay farmers to put carbon in their soils, trees and crops.

5. Monitoring, reporting and verification

It is the vital but unglamorous job of ensuring that carbon removal is properly documented and accurately measured. Without it, citizens would rightly wonder if this is all real and if governments are simply handing out public money to businesses for nothing in return.

Monitoring, reporting and verifying carbon storage in soil is a major challenge, requiring a complex system of field sampling, satellites and models. Even for trees, there are gaps in international reporting in many countries, and no agreed method for reporting direct air capture and storage, which uses chemicals to absorb CO₂ from the air.

6. Decision making

Much information on CO₂ elimination can be found in the academic literature and focuses on scenarios on a global scale. But in fact, it will involve people ranging from local farmers to international financiers. Everyone will need tools to help them make better decisions, from easy-to-read manuals to improved models.

These priorities will guide our research and will be items to watch in the government’s new removal strategy. They must involve businesses and citizens, not just policy makers and scientists.

Unfortunately, it’s so late in the day that we can’t afford to go wrong. But we’re optimistic that there are plenty of opportunities to get it right. (The conversation)


Warning :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI

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