Jack Turnham

Dec 19, 2023

Photo of smokestack by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

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Jack Turnham is a Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) Originator at Drax Group where he works to build the company’s carbon removal business. Jack has a first-class honours degree in Material Science and Engineering from Swansea University. After a university year in industry at Cummins, he returned as a project engineer developing on-highway heavy goods vehicles for the upcoming Euro7 and EPA27 regulations period. After two years, his interest in moving into sustainable technology was calling and he began at Drax in mid-2023. Jack is based in the vibrant Leeds but can be found in London on occasion.

How did you first come across GGR?

I have always been aware of the sustainability world and knew a little about Oil and Gas Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) through school and university but did not know anything about Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR). During sixth form at school, I discovered my interest in learning more about the newest technologies, and decided I wanted to work on the latest clean technologies whether that be batteries, hydrogen or solar. However, the world of GGR was unbeknownst to me until this time last year when I applied for a range of sustainability jobs. A role Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) popped up and after some research into BECCS and the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM), I was immediately gripped and saw the huge potential this new market had to positively impact the world, and I wanted a part to play. In my current role at Drax, we generally use the term Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and I only saw GGR after joining the Future Leaders Network (FLN). 

Who inspired you when you were looking to get into the industry?

Due to my recent introduction to the GGR space, I was not necessarily inspired by any one person when looking to join. Through watching YouTube videos on carbon markets by S&P Global Commodity Insights, I was able to see the huge and positive impact this industry could have.

Since joining the industry, however, the drive that all carbon market stakeholders have is like nothing I have seen before. At Drax, I am continuously inspired by my colleagues, all of whom I met for the first time this year and who share the same passion for the industry and continue to work their socks off to get BECCS off the ground.

What aspect within your role now is motivating you?

Everything about this industry motivates me, the mission and vision for global climate impact and the growth potential combined with the crazy fast pace make it very exciting. Industry-wide there are lots of important developments with the European Parliament supporting the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF) and Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA) and the Voluntary Carbon Market Initiative’s (VCMI) Carbon Integrity Market continuing to highlight the need for GGR and the progression of political and regulatory structure. 

Project-wise, the pool of corporations interested in buying engineered carbon removals is expanding, which is great. Each commercial negotiation is bespoke and complex, which makes the work very engaging. Both the conversations I am having with companies and the rapid progression of policy in this area are highly motivating and make my role as a CDR Originator thrilling.

Where do you see the biggest gaps and need for further resources?

Three big gaps that I feel need more attention are 1) robust removal definition, 2) popping the removal circle bubble, and 3) the “I’ll wait until removals are cheaper” mindset.

In terms of a robust removal definition, there is a gap in what determines the value of a removal credit. Whatever is deemed to add value to a credit most, be it permanence, co-benefits, or something else, it needs to be set before investors can have full confidence in this market.

We need more public education and engagement on carbon removal for improved public acceptance to increase. Currently, most of the knowledge wealth is within the industry itself and that needs to change. Finally, without investment now carbon removal credits are not going to get cheaper, and we must globally invest now to ensure scale of economy. 

What advice would you give someone looking to get into GGR? 

What I would say is to jump into the industry and just try things out. I applied for a project engineer role but am now in business development. This industry is wonderful and while you may feel suited to a particular role from previous experience, the industry is highly bespoke with room to shape to your preferences, and you can always move around once you are in. Also, read up on the VCM and the history of carbon markets to truly understand the journey and the potential for the future – this is something I wish I had done better!

Can you describe your 2050 vision for GGR?

In 2050, I envision carbon removals will have experienced an industry boom comparable to EVs and AI and will be globally recognised as a critical element of climate action. I also envision that the compliance markets will also be at a stage where the industry is self-supporting and there are few remaining government incentives.

On a speculative level, we are currently off track to meet the 9 gigatonnes per annum CO2 removal target but I am confident that the market has strong upward direction and high confidence removal capacity in the pipeline. I would also love for carbon removals to have set a new standard in global business by requiring co-benefits for any new business venture.