Along with cutting fossil fuel use to zero, removing carbon dioxide from the air is increasingly seen as one way to stop the long-term buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Carbon removal and storage coupled with drawing down fossil fuel use is called “negative emissions.”
The Climeworks plant represents the beginning of an industry that is attempting to perfect the technology. Other companies, such as British Columbia–based Carbon Engineering, are also working on direct-air capture plants that will commercially suck carbon dioxide from the air.
Sabine Fuss, a sustainable energy researcher at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin who is unaffiliated with Climeworks, said that the company’s direct-air capture plant is the first of its kind to operate on an industrial scale.