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Six areas for action on carbon removals

Delia Meth-Cohn
Delia Meth-Cohn
Six areas for action on carbon removals

We know what needs to be done – now we have to do it

Climate science shows that we will have to remove substantial amounts of carbon from the air to achieve net zero and meet the Paris climate goals. The Energy Transition Commission estimates that, in addition to massive reductions of emissions in every sector, we will also need to remove a cumulative total of 70-220 billion tonnes of carbon by 2050 to reach net zero – and more after that annually to get the carbon cycle back in balance. If natural carbon sinks start to become sources in the face of a changing climate – for example because of wildfires, droughts, or melting permafrost – these numbers will be even higher.

To have any chance of reaching these numbers, we urgently need to scale up high quality removals with long durability, putting them onto an exponential growth curve. This means working towards an interim target (set independently by the UNFCCC High Level Champions and by Mission Innovation) of 100 million tonnes per year by 2030. As today we are removing only around three million tonnes per year, this will require doubling current removals capacity every 1.5-2 years, starting now.

Last year, we convened many conversations across the removals ecosystem to work out what is needed now to accelerate the scale-up of high-quality removals. We identified six interrelated areas for action:

●       Scale: ensure there is a pipeline of high-quality carbon removal projects and sufficient human capital in place in multiple locations in the global North and South to enable the exponential growth required to reach the UNFCCC target of 100 Mt per year removal capacity by 2030

●       Demand: create sufficient long-term, predictable demand for high-quality removals from corporates and governments, through buyers’ pools, long-term offtake agreements and advance purchase mechanisms

●       Policy: help key governments in both the global South and global North to identify and implement policies, incentives, regulations and targets to get high-quality removals started, demonstrating their reality to others

●       Accounting: align around principles and guidelines that define and encourage high-quality removals, setting a common foundation for more detailed work on standards and methodologies

●       Finance: facilitate mainstream financing for carbon removals by developing practical investment models and aligning these with policy and accounting pillars

●       Narrative: reframe the narrative(s) on removals to clarify language, address fault-lines such as the moral hazard, global south/global north inequity and nature/technology, and get alignment on the role of removals in decarbonisation strategies

We are now translating these into a set of focused but coordinated initiatives. If you are interested in working with us or supporting us, get in touch.