Carbon removal investment of $15trn needed to hit 1.5°C goal

10th March 2022

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Chris Seekings

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels could require investment of $15trn (£11.4trn) in carbon dioxide removals (CDRs) over the next three decades.

That is according to a new report from the Energy Transitions Commission, which outlines how at least 70 to 220 gigatonnes (Gt) of CDRs will be needed between now and 2050 to deliver globally agreed climate goals.

The think tank said that CDRs, alongside rapid and deep global decarbonisation, can give the world a “50/50 chance” of keeping the 1.5°C goal alive.

Removals could be achieved via a combination of natural climate solutions, such as reforestation and improved soil management, engineered solutions, such as direct air capture of CO2, and hybrid solutions, such as bioenergy plus carbon capture and storage.

A feasible scenario suggests that, from close to zero today, removals could reach 3.5 Gt per annum by 2030, and could deliver around 165 Gt of cumulative sequestration over the next 30 years. The $15trn price tag is equivalent to around 0.25% of projected global GDP over this period.

“It’s not either or – deep decarbonisation or carbon dioxide removals,” said Adair Turner, Energy Transitions Commission chair. “Both are essential, rapidly and at scale, if we are to avoid enormous harm to people across the world.

“Unless we develop carbon dioxide emissions rapidly and on large scale – closing the gap in both ambition and funding between today’s minimal level and what we need – it will be impossible to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”

Voluntary carbon markets will play an important role in scaling up CDR, but even under ambitious projections, are only likely to meet one-third of the 2030 volume required, according to the report

Furthermore, no single CDR solution can be deployed in significant enough volumes to deliver the emissions removals required over the next three decades, and each entails different costs and risks.

A portfolio approach is therefore required, with solutions playing vital and complementary roles. Initially the bulk of investment must be focused on reforestation and delivering other natural climate solutions, alongside early scale-up support for engineered and hybrid solutions.

In the 2030s and 2040s, the portfolio is expected to shift towards hybrid and engineered solutions as these newer technologies scale, bringing down costs and increasing availability.

“In addition to rapid and deep decarbonisation, governments and corporates must work together, starting now, to scale-up an ambitious and diverse portfolio of CDR solutions,” said Nigel Topping, UK high level climate action champion.

“As we look ahead to COP27, this is vital to delivering on commitments made in Glasgow and keeping 1.5°C alive.”

Image credit: iStock


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