To achieve net zero emissions and remove CO2 from the air, scientists have set six priorities – Technology News, Firstpost

To achieve net zero emissions by 2050, global emissions must be cut faster and deeper than the world has yet succeeded in doing. But even then, some hard-to-treat pollution sources – in aviation, agriculture, and cement manufacturing – may linger longer than we’d like. It will take time for clean alternatives to arrive and replace them.

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

The world must find and step up ways to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere to stabilize the climate. Image credit: SASCHA STEINBACH / EPA

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

Done well, eliminating carbon could be the perfect accompaniment to emission reductions, rebalancing the climate. Done poorly, it could be a dangerous distraction.

Proceed with the deletion

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

These stores vary in size and stability, and methods of introducing carbon therein vary in cost and preparation. Trees, for example, are literally a plug and play way of absorbing carbon with many additional benefits. But the carbon they store can be released by fires, pests, or logging. The underground storage of CO₂ provides a more stable reservoir and could contain 100 times more, but aerial injection methods are expensive and at an early stage of development. Nevertheless, a raft of novelties, competitions and start-up emerging.

Some experts fear that carbon removal may turn out to be a mirage – especially at the massive scales supposed in some ways to achieve net zero – that distracts attention from the critical task of reducing emissions. So, how do you make a successful move?

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 end point or a stepping stone to more removals beyond. A clear vision would help people see the benefits of investing to phase out CO₂, while also 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 already intends to plant enough trees cover twice the area of ​​Bristol each year.

These changes must offer other benefits and align with the values ​​of the local population. People not only care about the removal techniques themselves, but also how they are funded and supported and will want to see that the reduction in 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. Innovate

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 Q45 tax cut and California standard on low carbon fuels and the Australian Agriculture Carbon Initiative both encourage 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

This is the vital but inglorious job of ensuring that carbon removal is properly documented and accurately measured. Without it, citizens would rightly worry if this was all real and if governments were just handing out public money to businesses with nothing in return.

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

6. Decision making

Much information on CO₂ elimination resides 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, manuals to improve 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 possibilities to get it right.The conversation

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

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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