Carbon Dioxide Removals (CDRs) are essential to meet the Paris Agreement goals as New Zealand experts on Friday called for more novel ways to suck carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere.
CDR takes many forms, from planting trees to new technologies that draw CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it or use it for other purposes. But many countries are lagging behind, experts said.
The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal report, published on Thursday in Australia, estimated the world will need 1,300 times more CDR from new technologies on average, and twice as much from trees and soils, to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
As the world heats up, there is an urgent need to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to buy time as the world transitions to a zero-carbon future.
Dr Sebastian Gehricke, director of the Climate and Energy Finance Group, University of Otago, said it is not surprising that the implementation of CDR to date has mostly focused on conventional methods, while novel methods only make up a tiny fraction.
“Conventional CDR techniques such as afforestation are proven and financially feasible through regulated and voluntary carbon markets, but land for these is limited,” Gehricke said.
In New Zealand, it has become a very profitable investment to purchase land and plant a forest, particularly exotic forests. The area of forests registered in the Emissions Trading Scheme has grown from 357 hectares in 2009 to 492,268 hectares in January 2023, mostly consisting of exotic forests, he said.
However, novel CDR methods such as Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) are still in development and carry a lot of risks, making them less attractive to investors, Gehricke said.
Many of the larger international projects are yet to be completed and there is no such project in New Zealand, he added,
“In New Zealand we have a responsibility to reduce emissions and offset the hard to abate emissions. We cannot plant enough trees to offset all of our emissions and get to our net zero goal,” he said.
Paul Bennett, portfolio leader of Integrated Bioenergy of the government research institute Scion, said there are many proposed projects aimed at achieving “Net Zero Emissions by 2050”, but the quantity of removal will fall well short of this target.
Established technologies that can be deployed for the removal of CO2 include Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage and tree planting, but the deployment needs to be accelerated to be effective, Bennett said, adding New Zealand has the opportunity to pursue all of the technologies.