WHAT IS CARBON DIOXIDE REMOVAL AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Climate change is driven by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide into the air, causing global warming.

The 2016 Paris Agreement aims to keep the increase in the global average temperature to “well below” 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, in order to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change on the planet.

Although significant strides have been made in renewable energy and energy efficiency, these are not enough to meet the critical 2 °C target. Additional CO2 removal from the atmosphere will be required.

Climate change mitigation therefore urgently needs carbon removal technologies. Eighty seven per cent of all IPCC climate scenarios make it clear that negative emissions are absolutely necessary in order to keep global warming below 2 °C.

Importantly CO2 removal is not only needed to enable negative emissions but also to achieve zero CO2 emissions globally. Sectors such as shipping and aviation do not yet have viable alternatives to fossil fuels. Traditional mitigation measures such as renewable energies can – even in the optimum scenario – only reduce CO2 by around 80 per cent. The rest must come from removing carbon from the air.

Climeworks has developed the first commercial carbon removal technology on the market today, allowing us to physically remove any organisation’s or individual’s past, present and future CO2 emissions.

“Direct air capture may be the most environmentally benign option for large-scale CO2 removal”

Dr. Phillip Williamson, University of East Anglia

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Are there any alternative approaches to carbon dioxide removal?
Carbon dioxide removal, also known as negative emissions technologies, covers a number of technologies which reduce the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

These include:

  • Bioenergy in combinations with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)
  • Afforestation: large-scale tree plantations to increase carbon storage in biomass and soil
  • Enhanced weathering: distribution of crushed silicate rocks on soil surfaces to absorb and bind CO2 chemically
  • Direct air capture of CO2 from ambient air through engineered chemical reactions

Our direct air capture approach has several advantages over other carbon removal technologies: it does not require water or depend on arable land; has a small physical footprint; and is scalable.

“Less land-intensive technologies like Direct Air Capture (DAC) have to be urgently considered as part of the climate change mitigation portfolio.”

Dr. Sabine Fuss, Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change

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