The role of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) in combating climate change

Global warming is one of the major challenges facing humanity, and needs to be addressed urgently to avoid devastating impacts on ecosystems and communities around the globe.

The main task at hand is reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2, but also methane and nitrous oxide) to a minimum. In fact, the reduction of emissions is by far the most important lever we can pull. However, it won’t be enough.

A complete reduction of emissions to zero will be difficult to achieve, especially in some industrial sectors. Hence, achieving net zero requires a certain degree of carbon capture and sequestration to compensate for remaining – hard to abate – emissions.

In addition, in order to avoid global warming to proceed beyond 1.5 degrees C, we need to remove some of the greenhouse gases already emitted into the atmosphere, in order to return to safe levels and a balanced earth atmosphere.

In other words: carbon dioxide removal is part of the solution.

(1) imagen : The importance of negative emissions

The next few years are critical: the carbon crunch

According to the most recent assessment report of the IPCC, we have a maximum total carbon budget of 400-500 Gigatons of CO2-equivalents that we may emit in order to avoid global warming beyond 1.5 C. To avoid an overshoot of our global ‘Carbon Budget’, emission reductions are urgent. Any year we further delay emission reductions and carbon capture means that the pathway to reach net zero in time becomes harder to achieve. By investing in carbon removal today, the pathways for achieving net zero in time remain feasible.

Imagen 2: Carbon Crunch

Carbon credits: an evolving market

The trading of carbon credits is a way to create value from greenhouse gas emission reductions and carbon capture and sequestration. Generally speaking, there’s a difference between compliance-based carbon markets which are generally enforced by (inter-)governmental institutions. One example is the EU carbon emissions trading system that sets a cap for maximum amounts of emissions for certain industries and allows companies to trade their carbon budget. This means that low emitters can make a profit by selling their carbon emission budget to high emitting companies.

The other type of carbon markets is voluntary (‘Voluntary Carbon Markets’ or VCM). Here, companies purchase carbon credits on a voluntary basis to achieve voluntary targets for reducing their carbon footprint, often as part of a public pledge to become climate neutral.

(4) imagen: Voluntary carbon markets con make a difference through various mechanisms

The voluntary carbon market faces some challenges.

The voluntary carbon credit market has suffered from the lack of standardization, integrity and transparency. In addition (and as a consequence?) the value of carbon credits in the voluntary market are very low.

According to a 2020 report by the World Bank, carbon prices on the VCM start at less than US$1/ton CO2e and increase to US$119/ton CO2e. And the price for almost half of emissions are at less than US$10/tCO2e. (5)

Nevertheless, the carbon market is evolving and new methods for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) have established a new level of legitimacy and reliability in carbon removal.

For example, the EU is launching a system for carbon removal certification.(6)  The EU carbon removal certification framework (CRCF) aims to scale up carbon removal activities and fight greenwashing by empowering businesses to show their action in this field. Carbon removals will need to be correctly quantified, deliver additional climate benefits, strive to store carbon for a long time, prevent carbon leaks, and contribute to sustainability.





Certification bodies are also raising the bar with robust standards and Monitoring-Reporting-Verification requirements (MRV). Key players incluide: Puro.Earth, Verra and the European Biochar Certificate.

The good news is that new types of carbon removal offer a reliable, quantifiable and permanent carbon storage.


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