Carbon dioxide removal: Nature-based and technological solutions

23-02-2021

As a party to the Paris Agreement, the European Union has committed to implementing climate mitigation policies to keep the average temperature rise to well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. Meeting the more ambitious goal of 1.5°C requires bringing the level of global net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by around 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Following this scientific consensus, the European Commission presented in 2019 the European Green Deal as the strategy towards a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, and proposed a European climate law in 2020 to make this target legally binding. The IPCC scenarios consistent with limiting the temperature rise to 1.5°C show that removing CO2 from the atmosphere is essential and complements the implementation of emissions reduction policies. In line with this, the European science academies recommend prioritising deep emissions cuts, but also to start developing a portfolio of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) options immediately. Various options are being discussed in light of the growing consensus that meeting the established targets is dependent on CDR. These range from nature-based practices – such as forestation, soil carbon sequestration and wetland restoration – to technological alternatives such as enhanced weathering, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and direct air capture and storage. Nature-based solutions stand out as more cost-effective and viable in the short run, while some technological alternatives have potential to become more relevant later this century. The European Commission recognises the crucial role of CDR, and intends to focus on nature-based options. An extensive revision of the EU climate mitigation legislation, planned for 2021, will provide an opportunity to set a regulatory framework for CDR. The European Parliament has repeatedly called for prioritising emissions reductions over CDR, and stressed the importance of conserving biodiversity and enhancing natural sinks and reservoirs. Its position on the proposed European climate law involves removing GHGs that exceed manmade emissions in the EU and each Member State from 2051.

As a party to the Paris Agreement, the European Union has committed to implementing climate mitigation policies to keep the average temperature rise to well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. Meeting the more ambitious goal of 1.5°C requires bringing the level of global net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by around 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Following this scientific consensus, the European Commission presented in 2019 the European Green Deal as the strategy towards a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, and proposed a European climate law in 2020 to make this target legally binding. The IPCC scenarios consistent with limiting the temperature rise to 1.5°C show that removing CO2 from the atmosphere is essential and complements the implementation of emissions reduction policies. In line with this, the European science academies recommend prioritising deep emissions cuts, but also to start developing a portfolio of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) options immediately. Various options are being discussed in light of the growing consensus that meeting the established targets is dependent on CDR. These range from nature-based practices – such as forestation, soil carbon sequestration and wetland restoration – to technological alternatives such as enhanced weathering, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, and direct air capture and storage. Nature-based solutions stand out as more cost-effective and viable in the short run, while some technological alternatives have potential to become more relevant later this century. The European Commission recognises the crucial role of CDR, and intends to focus on nature-based options. An extensive revision of the EU climate mitigation legislation, planned for 2021, will provide an opportunity to set a regulatory framework for CDR. The European Parliament has repeatedly called for prioritising emissions reductions over CDR, and stressed the importance of conserving biodiversity and enhancing natural sinks and reservoirs. Its position on the proposed European climate law involves removing GHGs that exceed manmade emissions in the EU and each Member State from 2051.