The 2015 Paris Agreement committed 196 countries including the USA, China, the UK, France and Germany to keep the world’s average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and ideally below 1.5°C.
Even if a maximum 1.5°C of warming is achieved, it will still result in significant impacts on ecosystems, weather patterns, food availability and damaging flooding.
Emissions reductions are critical
There is robust agreement across scientific and governmental communities that reducing emissions across all sectors and all organizations is the number one priority today. But there is an equal understanding that this will not be enough to undo the emissions that continue to pour out each day or those that have been accumulating over previous decades.
If you want to know where to start, this paper from Oxford University sets out how companies and individuals can make meaningful impacts to their footprints.
Avoidance is not "better than nothing"
For several years now, avoidance measures such as paying landowners to not cut down trees have become increasingly popular for companies trying to give the perception of climate action at a very low cost.
While some of these projects have undoubted social and ecological benefits, they do nothing to remove the emissions that you create. Beyond this, there are often major concerns about the Additionality of these projects - this paper from 2015 by the Stockholm Environment Institute found that 75% of the offsets "are unlikely to represent additional emissions reductions".
In 2019, ProPublica published an in-depth investigation into the effectiveness of deforestation-prevention avoidances, coming to the conclusion that "Carbon Credits For Forest Preservation May Be Worse Than Nothing". The same issues with additionality were found, along with concerns over permanence and the leakage of deforestation to areas just beyond the protected zone.
So what options do we have?
This is where carbon removal solutions have to come in. A carbon removal is a process that eliminates damaging greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and locks them away or destroys them. They are sometimes also referred to as Negative Emissions.
The most obvious of these is nature's own control mechanism - photosynthesis by plants and trees in particular. Trees are a key part of the carbon removal answer, but still have a number of limitations, as this article from NASA shows, including:
- Space required to plant enough trees and competing needs for agriculture and other uses
- Time required for impact because of the time it takes for a tree to grow and absorb CO2
- Limitations on durability - when trees die and decompose they release most of the absorbed CO2 back into the atmosphere.
Reforestation and afforestation have several benefits beyond carbon removal, including protecting and creating ecosystems. The reality however is that they will never be able to deliver sufficient negative emissions without engineered solutions alongside them.
So what about human-created solutions?
This is where engineered, science-based Carbon Removal Technologies come in.
These technologies eliminate greenhouse gases in a way that is more durable and often more rapid than afforestation; and certainly orders of magnitude more effective than avoidances. You can find the details of all the solutions here, including a comparison of their relative impact, durability and immediacy, drawing on independent scientific research from a team at the Institute of Environmental Sciences in Leiden, NL.