Home Climate justice New coalition bets big on carbon removal technology

New coalition bets big on carbon removal technology

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As global emissions continue to rise, the idea that the world is likely to exceed its climate targets is increasingly becoming a reality. In response, a growing number of companies have turned to a technology known as “direct air capture”, or sucking carbon dioxide from the air, to help curb climate change. This fledgling industry got a boost on Tuesday when dozens of companies, nonprofits, foundations and universities formed a coalition to organize the carbon removal industry and bring together people who have so far thought and worked on direct air capture in isolation.

Carbon removal technology is a growing but still controversial component of the global response to climate change. In April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s top climate body, said keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius would require removing some of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. And despite opposition from some conservationists, groups like the DAC Coalition believe direct air capture is a way to achieve these climate goals.

The new group, known as the Direct Air Capture Coalition, is registered in the United States as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, but will have a “global focus”, according to Axios. Members include for-profit companies such as Climeworks, which opened the world’s largest carbon capture facility in Iceland last year, as well as “partners and observers” such as the non-profit World Resources Institute and New York University’s Energy, Climate Justice, and Sustainability Lab. The goal, according to the group’s website, is to bring together leaders from technology, business, finance, government and civil society to “educate, engage and mobilize” the world in support of the world. removal of carbon.

“No nonprofit is focused on accelerating deployment and doing it in an efficient, sustainable, and equitable way,” Jason Hochman, co-founder and senior director of the coalition, told the news site. Protocol. “So we’re trying to change that.”

Carbon Dioxide Removal, or CDR, is a broad category that encompasses both natural solutions and technology. Ecosystem strategies include creating “carbon sinks” by planting trees or restoring wetlands that pull carbon from the air and sequester it in biomass, water or soil. Technologies like the DAC are another component, using large fans to draw in air and a chemical reaction to filter out pure carbon dioxide, which would then be transported to underground storage areas across the country or turned into products like the concrete.

A direct air capture plant in Iceland built by Climeworks, of which Stripe and Microsoft were the first customers.
Halldor Kolbeins/AFP via Getty Images

Direct air capture technologies have yet to be tested on a large scale and can be prohibitively expensive, costing several hundred dollars to remove one metric ton of carbon dioxide. But local governments in states like Colorado and Arizona have already started moving forward with carbon phase-out. And the federal government also supported the idea; Last week, the Department of Energy announced plans to fund a $3.5 billion carbon capture and storage program under last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law.

The initiative would create four regional DAC hubs that would each capture and store at least 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. But according to the department, “CDR will need to be deployed at gigatonne scale” by mid-century – capturing 1 billion metric tons of CO2 per year, or about the amount produced by 250 million vehicles.

The Department of Energy promised it would “emphasize environmental justice, community engagement, consent-based settlement, equity, and workforce development” in the development of CDR projects, and said that this strategy should go hand in hand with the decarbonisation of the economy. But environmental justice groups such as the Climate Justice Alliance have criticized the decision to promote carbon removal technologies, arguing that the funding should instead support “real and proven” renewable energy projects in areas worst affected by climate change. Pollution.

“The mere promise of DAC technologies serves as a cover for the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels, which results in continued harm to frontline communities,” said Basav Sen, director of the Climate Justice project. from the Institute for Policy Studies, in a press release. “It is also a dangerous bet, as we are already in the midst of a severe climate crisis, and the promise of the DAC may never materialize and only harm frontline communities in new and unacceptable ways.”

Instead, the alliance called on President Joe Biden to ban new oil and gas leases on federal lands, stop approving fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency under the Climate Change Act. national emergencies, which would allow the government to accelerate the development of renewable energies. .

Hochman told Protocol that the DAC Coalition wants to play a role in starting these regional centers, although the organization does not lobby directly. The group’s next steps include holding a summit in the fall, with the aim of developing a strategy to guide the industry through 2030.