What is Carbon Dioxide Removal?
Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) is the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmospheric carbon cycle. That removal must be additional to removal that would have happened if no action were taken. The IPCC has projected that we need 10 billion tonnes of this additional removal every year by 2050, if we have a hope of remaining below 2 degrees of warming.
In order for a carbon dioxide removal activity to be worthwhile, it must be additional, remove more carbon dioxide than it emits, have a reliable (and ideally long term) storage solution and be unlikely to be reversed.
Additional means that the activities of an entity to remove carbon wouldn’t have happened - naturally or otherwise. Carbon removals are just that, the actual removal of additional carbon from the atmosphere; not avoiding emissions, not emissions reduction, removal.
Important in this concept of additionality is financial additionality. If a removal would have happened for an economic reason anyway, then the removal is not additional. This negates activities that absorb carbon dioxide to create other products, for example, growing trees for furniture, or absorbing carbon dioxide for use in industry, from being considered carbon dioxide removal.
Lifecycle Assessment (LCA)
One important part of carbon dioxide removal is the process itself. There is no point in removing carbon from the atmosphere if the removal method requires more emissions than it removes. That is why carbon dioxide removal involves a stringent accounting of the emissions required to manufacture, build, operate, maintain and if necessary, decommission a removal operation.
Carbon dioxide can be captured from the atmosphere and turned into products or used in industry. This can result in a low carbon or carbon neutral product, but it can only be carbon dioxide removal if the carbon (or carbon dioxide) is stored somewhere that it cannot be released from.
Durability and Longevity
Carbon dioxide removal is often also equated with the need for removals to be both durable (difficult to undo) and long term (> 100 years up to geological time-frames).
Most approaches that involve natural solutions are criticised from this perspective for carbon dioxide removals.
The Carbon Dioxide Removals Market
10 billion tonnes by 2050 is a MASSIVE target for removals. So far no more than 30,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide removals have been delivered. It’s going to be a long road, and a heck of a lot of work. But we believe it’s achievable.
Carbon markets can be confusing and there are a lot of terms, classifications, emerging trends and definitions involved. If you’re looking for more information on carbon dioxide removal and climate spaces, Airminers and Zopeful have excellent courses for you to checkout.
For up to date statistics on purchases and deliveries, cdr.fyi is an excellent tracker.