2022 IPCC recommendations on CDR
In April 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its 6th Report “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”.
The IPCC Report makes it clear that limiting warming to well-below 2C requires “immediate and deep” greenhouse gas reductions in all sectors.
But the Report also features carbon dioxide reduction (CDR) as a “key element” to achieve these climate goals. Zero Carbon Solutions focuses on land and ocean-based CDR solutions.
As is made clear in the Report, CDR is not a replacement for mitigation. If current levels of GHGs are emitted then we will exceed 1.5C and 2C global temperature increases this century. Delaying reductions puts 1.5C and increasingly 2C out of reach.
However, even with deep near-term emissions reductions big challenges remain: while we can cut non-CO2 GHG emissions (methane and nitrous oxide) by around two thirds, the remaining third will be extremely difficult to fully eliminate and will have to be counterbalanced by CDR.
Similarly, there will be a small portion of existing C02 emissions that will be too costly or difficult to fully eliminate, although just how far we can get toward zero C02 will depend on how well we can change behaviours and develop technologies for hard-to-decarbonize sectors.
As the Report notes, “At the point of global net zero C02 emissions, 3-12 GtCO2 of emissions from some sectors are compensated for by net negative C02 emissions in other sectors.”
Finally, while in an ideal world we would cut emissions by ~50% globally in the next decade, there is a real risk that slower action results in the world overshooting its temperature goals. In that case, the only way to permanently bring global temperature back down is CDR.
To put it simply, to reduce future temperatures, C02 will have to be actively removed from the atmosphere and the C02 already sequestered by the natural environment needs to be preserved.
As the Report notes, CDR is –
CDR can come in different forms, including afforestation/reforestation (ARR), bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), direct air capture (DAC), enhanced weathering, biochar, wetland restoration and conservation (WRC), soil carbon, bio-CO2 use in industry and ocean alkalinity enhancement.
Many technological challenges exist to bring BECCS and DAC into widespread use, not least the cost of deploying these technologies and the false hope that such technologies can counteract continued GHG emissions. As stated in the Report:
“the prospect of large-scale CDR could…obstruct near-term emission reduction efforts, mask insufficient policy interventions, might lead to an overreliance on technologies that are still in their infancy, could overburden future generations, might evoke new conflicts over equitable burden-sharing, [and] could impact food security, biodiversity or land rights”.
Finally, the IPCC Report highlights the important contribution to be made by “improved forest management”. Conserving the world’s remaining standing forests through sustainable management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks by reference to UNFCCC Guidance to Reduce Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) can play a crucial role in preventing carbon emissions.
CDR (and REDD+) at a gigaton scale will be essential to meet climate goals. You can ultimately justify any number ranging from a few GtCO2/yr needed to counterbalance residual positive emissions to many tens of tons of GtCO2/yr needed to deal with high overshoot.
But, as the Report notes, “without appropriate incentive schemes and market designs, CDR implementation options could see under-investment.”
The Voluntary Carbon Market and Emissions Trading Schemes can provide these incentives. ARR, WRC and REDD+ can be funded by the sale of Carbon Credits in these markets and play a key role in climate change and the preservation of the natural environment.
Zero Carbon Solutions sources, finances and trades Carbon Credits.