Climate: Carbon Dioxide Removals to reach Net Zero

Green transition 10 September 2021 Larisa Maya-Drysdale Niki Bey

The new IPCC report names Net Zero as a ‘requirement’ to stabilize the earth’s temperature and stick to 1.5°C, and ‘Carbon Dioxide Removals to balance CO2 emissions’. But what are “Carbon Dioxide Removals” and what are the consequences to compensate emissions for achieving “Net Zero”? Get some of the answers here.

Expert columns
5 min

By Larisa Maya-Drysdale and Niki Bey

On the 9th of August 2021 The IPCC released its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). This report strongly emphasizes that humans have warmed the climate at an ‘unprecedent’ rate, especially in the last few decades, and that weather and climate extremes are already affecting every region across the globe.

The IPCC – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – is the United Nations’ body of world leading climate experts, which are appointed by their Member State governments to scientifically assess and report on the state of climate change.

The panel releases reports roughly every seven years. In 1990 the IPCC warned of the potential consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions and was key to the forging of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the parent treaty to the 2015 Paris Agreement.

What are Carbon Dioxide Removals and how do they contribute to Net Zero?

According to the AR6 IPCC report, Net Zero is the “condition in which anthropogenic CO2 emissions are balanced by anthropogenic CO2 removals over a specified period”.

Abatement of CO2 emissions is no longer the only alternative. To reach Net Zero it is necessary to counter-balance human-induced emissions with Carbon Dioxide Removals (CDR).

According to the report, Carbon Dioxide Removals need to be implemented at a scale where human- induced removals in fact exceed human-induced emissions. This means that the Carbon Dioxide Removals market will have to provide the economies of scale needed to reduce CO2 emissions and achieve the 1.5oC target globally.

But this does not come easily, as the market for removals is not ready yet to provide for the required scale. Moreover, key requirements towards CDR – such as their Additionality1 and Permanence2 are: I)often difficult to prove for suggested removal solutions II) and that often have side effects that ‘can either weaken or strengthen the carbon sequestration and cooling potential and affect the achievement of sustainable development goals’, according to the IPCC.

Abatement of CO2 emissions is no longer the only alternative, and in order to reach Net Zero it is necessary to counter-balance human-induced emissions with Carbon Dioxide Removals (CDR).

LARIsa Maya-drysdale, associate manager, expert on carbon strategies and quantifications

Proving Additionality and Permanence is pivotal Co-benefits and trade-offs relate, for example, to biodiversity, water availability, food production, soil quality, land use change, and energy demand.

It is thus essential for Carbon Dioxide Removal projects to prove their Additionality and Permanence and to carefully observe and incorporate sustainability co-benefits.

There is a wide range of Carbon Dioxide Removal solutions available, covering e.g., afforestation & reforestation as well as Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS).

4 tips when validating CDR-projects

If you are considering investing in Carbon Dioxide Removal projects in order to achieve Net Zero within your organisation but are unsure how to ensure the validity of these projects, regard 4 essential aspects:

1. Assess each removal project separately

There is no single certification mechanism on the market today that supports all types of removal projects. Although there exist some widely accepted mechanisms, which may apply robust methodologies to validate removals, there are new carbon removal solutions emerging on the market that are not covered by these mechanisms

2. Two types of solutions

Observe, that there are two types of solutions to withdraw Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere: Nature-based solutions and Technology-based solutions.

The market for Nature-based solutions is more mature but Technology-based solutions provide advantages in terms of measurability and permanence of removals, although they also tend to be more costly.

3. Double-check a solution’s removal potential

Double-check and make sure that potential is quantified by a valid methodology. There is still a wide disparity on the quantification of the actual removal from the atmosphere and, thus, it is important to ensure the removals are calculated using a scientifically accepted methodology.

4. Double-check the trade-offs

All removal solutions have side effects. These may not be evident, and it is thus important to check candidate solutions on their potential, negative effects and sustainability co-benefits.

 

How can we help?

Together with expert partners, we are currently supporting the European Commission on devising a Carbon Removal Certification Mechanism to verify and monitor the authenticity and size of removals.

See here: Certification mechanism to help guide the EU to climate neutrality.

Want to understand more about Carbon Removals? Reach out to the authors and begin the conversation.