Apr 14, 2023 - Energy & Environment

What carbon removal can — and can't — achieve

Illustration of a garbage truck labeled as though it is a carbon dioxide removal vehicle

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Boldface names in the carbon removal sector and wider climate world want to make something crystal clear: They don't see the tech as a substitute for cutting emissions, and neither should you.

Driving the news: "Emission reductions and [carbon dioxide removal] should be clearly distinguished from each other," the direct air capture company Climeworks said in a lengthy new statement.

How it works: Those differences must be explicitly recognized "in climate pathways, target setting as well as in industry standards."

  • The same holds true in emissions credits markets and certificate programs.

Why it matters: This would help ensure "moral hazard is addressed, namely the claim that investing into CDR today could distract from emission reductions."

Zoom in: Backers include officials with Microsoft and Stripe (two companies heavily involved with removal), the CCS+ Initiative and others.

The big picture: It cites UN climate science panel estimates that emissions must fall 90% by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

  • Removal is "needed to neutralize any residual emissions and thus enable the world to achieve net zero CO2 by 2050."
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