By George Hope
A new report, The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal, finds that we are not on track to scale Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) to the levels necessary to meet the Paris Agreement temperature goal.
The report, led by CO2RE executive director Dr Steve Smith and featuring other authors from CO2RE, provides a comprehensive assessment of the current state of CDR for the first time. CDR is required alongside rapid cuts to emissions if we are to meet Paris goals or ‘net zero’ emissions.
The report quantifies current CDR around the world at about 2 GtCO2 per year. The vast majority, around 99%, comes from conventional methods on land, such as managing trees and soils. A tiny fraction, less than 0.1%, comes from novel CDR methods, such as biochar, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), and direct air capture with carbon capture and storage (DACCS).
“To limit warming to 2°C or lower, we need to accelerate emissions reductions. But the findings of this report are clear: we also need to increase carbon removal, too, by restoring and enhancing ecosystems and rapidly scaling up new CDR methods,” says Dr Steve Smith.
“Many new methods are emerging with potential. Rather than focusing on one or two options we should encourage a portfolio”
Dr Steve Smith
Specifically, pathways show that on average 1,300 times more CDR from new technologies, and twice as much from trees and soils, may be necessary to meet the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to achieve 1.5°C.
Crucially, pathways that limit warming to 2°C or lower require deep cuts to emissions in addition to, not in place of, CDR. Our dependence on CDR can be limited by reducing emissions fast and using energy more efficiently, say the report authors.
Dr Smith notes the need for a portfolio approach to CDR: “Many new methods are emerging with potential. Rather than focusing on one or two options we should encourage a portfolio, so that we get to net zero quickly without over-relying on any one method.”
As well as tracking deployment of CDR globally, report authors looked at the research, innovation and public awareness of CDR, all of which have expanded in recent years.
“The report shows that CDR is becoming more of a public talking point, although awareness remains low relative to many other aspects of climate change,” adds co-author and CO2RE researcher Dr Emily Cox. “But how CDR methods are perceived will play a critical role in their future prospects.”
The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal has been devised and convened by researchers Steve Smith (CO2RE and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford), Oliver Geden (German Institute for International and Security Affairs), Jan Minx (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, Berlin) and Gregory Nemet (University of Wisconsin-Madison).
CO2RE’s Dr Rob Bellamy and Dr Emily Cox were co-authors of Chapter 4 on public perceptions, while Professor Niall Mac Dowell and Dr Isabela Butnar were reviewers.
The report’s funders comprise the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council, the European Research Council, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Carbon Gap and Bank of America.
Want to find out more?
- Visit www.StateofCDR.org to read the full report, access the data and give your feedback
- Watch the launch event on YouTube (16.00-17.30 GMT, 19 January)
- Attend our upcoming event on market transition risk: ‘Exploring risk and uncertainty in the new Greenhouse Gas Removal sector’, 17:30-20:00, Wednesday 8 February 2023, Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford
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