No climate neutrality without removing CO2 from the air


To meet the Paris climate targets, carbon dioxide must be removed from the air. However, conventional methods such as afforestation are not enough.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin In addition to rapid emission reductions, the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is also necessary in order to be able to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in pre-industrial comparison. But while many governments around the world are aiming for carbon neutrality by mid-century, few plans exist to capture enough greenhouse gases from the air.

This is shown by the report presented for the first time on the status of CO2 removal by an international research team. The report was led by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, co-led by the Berlin climate research institute MCC.

The researchers are finding that there is a lot of catching up to do. “The state of research, development and politics is similarly backward as that of renewable energies 25 years ago,” said Jan Minx, author of the report and head of the MCC working group Applied Sustainability Research.

Almost all current CO2 removal is based on conventional land-based methods, according to the report. This includes, among other things, the restoration of ecosystems and afforestation. Forests absorb carbon dioxide. Germany, for example, also relies on the renaturation of moors. Agricultural practices that increase soil carbon levels are also being tested.

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But that is far from enough. The task cannot be accomplished with conventional methods. New technologies are needed, according to the report published early Thursday. Targeted political control is also needed.

Underground storage of CO2

Co-author Oliver Geden from the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) said: “CO2 removal is not an option, but a must, in order to achieve the temperature target of the Paris Agreement.” agreed to limit global warming to well below two degrees in pre-industrial comparison. In the meantime, it has been recognized that only limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees can prevent the worst effects of climate change. To date, the world has warmed to around 1.2 degrees.

Steve Smith of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment explained that many CO2 removal methods have potential. He advised against just focusing on one or two measures, but to position yourself broadly.

For example, the so-called “accelerated weathering” is being discussed. Here, minerals on land help to chemically bind CO2 from the air. Another option is to store CO2 underground. We are talking about Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS for short.

Specifically, the report names two CO2 removal technologies that require further research. If CO2 is stored in biomass, for example, which is then burned in power plants to generate electricity, CO2 is released again, captured and stored: Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage, BECCS. With another technology, the greenhouse gas is filtered directly from the air and later stored: Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage, DACCS.

But the idea of ​​storing CO2 underground is met with skepticism in many places, including in Germany. Many people do not like the idea of ​​large amounts of carbon dioxide being stored underground. For this reason, the government has so far primarily tried to conclude storage agreements with the CCS pioneer country Norway.

>>> Also read: “Use your own potential”: climate protectionists and scientists call for CO2 storage in Germany

At the Handelsblatt energy summit this week, Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) announced that he would not rule out CCS in Germany either. The government intends to present a comprehensive “Carbon Management Strategy” in mid-2023.

But in view of the magnitude that CO2 removal must reach by the middle of the century, time is of the essence, the researchers warn. The volume required in the second half of the century is only conceivable “with a significant increase in the next ten years, in the development phase of the new types of CO2 emissions”.

More: CO2 removal from the air – EU Commission proposes legislation for a certificate system

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