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The Carbon Lowdown #30
Welcome to The Carbon Lowdown! A fortnightly newsletter from Supercritical.
⭐️ Supercritical highlight ⭐️
🍃 Carbon removal
What is happening in the world of carbon removal?
🤷 The big question - how much CDR will we really need?
How much carbon we really need to remove is a question not many know the answer to. A recent post from Marginal Carbon explores this in detail. There are two scenarios for which carbon removal is fundamental;
To reach net zero, thereby scaling the industry now to drive down the cost per tonne of removal methods, building out a resilient portfolio of solutions for the future
To bring the global average temperature back down, after we inevitably overshoot the 1.5C
It is important to clearly distinguish these scenarios.
Reaching net zero: The ramp-up of carbon removal solutions to the annual 5Gt in 2050 would remove a total of 20Gt from now to 2050. Companies contributing to CDR during this time will be able to hit their net zero before we hit global net zero. For global net zero the article estimates an annual 2-5 Gt/yr of permanent carbon removal to offset continuous residual CO₂ emissions (those hard-to-reduce sectors).
For the overshoot: It is also likely we will miss the 1.5C limit if all national pledges are met - warming is due to rise to 1.8C. Lowering temperatures from 1.8C to 1.5C will require 666Gt CO2 to be removed (negative emissions). Determining who is responsible for this emission reduction is tricky, given taking responsibility for countries’s historical emissions is hotly debated! Early investment and scaling today aims to reduce the cost and complications of this for the future.
The article also goes into detail about other GHG’s such as methane and nitrous oxide, we implore you to read it!
🌳 The path through the confusing forest of tree credits
Since ‘that’ Guardian piece stating that 90% of rainforest offsets were exaggerating their impact, particularly those of forestry REDD+ projects, the claims from that original article have now been published in the Science journal, including the names of the projects which were looked into.
To clarify, REDD+ stands for ‘Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation’ with the plus standing for additional forest-related activities which protect the climate (sustainable forest management, conservation and enhancement of carbon stocks). Here at Supercritical, we focus on afforestation and reforestation projects with clear additionality, none of our projects are REDD+ and therefore not mentioned in the list which has been released. See our afforestation explainer below to see how these differ!
Like an onion, the tree credit scene has layers and another factor which buyers look into is that of credit vintages, the year in which the carbon is actually sequestered (removed). People often feel encouraged to buy credits within 5 years of the emissions they are compensating for as the credit feels to have greater integrity. This can lead to a price drop once a certain time frame has passed. However, a recently released white paper by Permian argues it is better to buy old vintages from a high-quality project than newer vintages from a poorly built one. The paper even suggests old vintages can convincingly prove the integrity and durability of a project! Could old vintages for high quality projects be a way for cheaper quality afforestation? It is a much debated topic!
📉 CDR methods and their potential to scale from NOAA
NOAA: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has released its comprehensive Carbon Dioxide Removal Strategy. The report concluded negative emission strategies would be essential for keeping temperatures at or below target levels and highlighting soil carbon as a top contender due to its cost-effective ratio (interestingly biochar was included within the soil carbon sphere). Below is a summary table from the report detailing 11 CDR solutions and their strengths and weaknesses. They positioned themselves as being able to support CDR research and MRV.
🔗 🚗 Mini links: Carbon removal
☑️ Nature has released an article exploring the voluntary carbon market and what needs to be done to improve it
🏦 Carbon as an asset - Bain has released an infographic on the potential role of banks in the carbon market
🪵 Drax has published a statement about the UK Government's newest BECCS strategy, alongside the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero releasing a new strategy on BECCS to generate negative emissions
🌎 Climate and Net Zero
What is happening in the world of climate and net zero?
⚖️ The Earth’s current balancing act
Climate tipping points are elements within the Earth’s system in which a temperature change above a certain threshold can kickstart a reinforcing loop, tipping the system into a new state. These become particularly significant when we consider the likelihood of global temperature rise overshooting 1.5C. This article by Grist explores the top 7 feedback loops and the concerns around them and is well worth a read!
An article released in Phys following a paper in Nature suggests tropical forests are one tipping point to be concerned with. The paper found some canopies are stepping ever closer to their threshold. A small proportion of the upper canopy was found to have reached temperatures of 47C+, crossing their threshold and so unable to photosynthesise. A USDA report into US forests also found they could become a “substantial carbon source” by 2070.
All the more reason why it is important to have a portfolio of climate solutions and work on bringing the overshoot down!
🐻 Conserving the world
The IUCN has launched a guide to effectively conserve at least 30% earth's surface by 2030. The 30x30 target was written in the Convention on Biological Diversity framework and adopted in December 2022. Countries that commit to the target will need to demonstrate progress towards meeting targets and updating their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). This also will require conservation finance to increase and is partly contributing to the gradual emergence of Biodiversity offsets and credits. Biodiversity and climate change are linked and the hope is that protecting the Earth’s biodiversity will result in additional positive outcomes for the climate.
🦒 The First Africa Climate Summit
The World’s first Africa Climate Summit, has come to a close. This year alone, 1.8 million Africans were displaced during a prolonged drought, the Democratic Republic of Congo experienced catastrophic flooding, and Cyclone Freddy left a trail of destruction in Malawi and Mozambique. These kinds of devastating events are expected to worsen as temperatures rise. The summit saw funding pledges worth $23 billion "for green growth, mitigation and adaptation efforts" across the continent.
🔗 🚗 Mini links: Climate
🎂The Inflation Reduction Act has turned one
🍎 Food production counts for 30% global GHG emissions, check out this video visualising the largest food group emitters
🌊 A new landmark study indicates weakening of the ocean carbon sink
💰 FT article exploring the cost of reaching net zero concluded investment would need to increase from $2tn to $5tn a year consistently until 2050
⅓ Bloomberg released a positive article suggesting companies with climate pledges surged in 2022 according to SBTi
New partnerships, fundraises and exciting initiatives going on in carbon removal!
🤝 Puro.earth and Carbonfuture have partnered to scale carbon removal
🏃Running Tide has delivered its first carbon removal credits to Shopify.
🏆 $1.3M has been awarded to projects in phase one of the DAC "EPIC" Prize
🔦 Carbon removal method spotlight
Afforestation, tree planting and the restoration of forests can protect biodiversity and help fight global climate change by removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, through photosynthesis. While carbon is removed and stored in the trunk, the branches and the roots of the trees, it may not stay there for a long time. Trees and forests can burn or be harvested, which can re-release some or all carbon removed. Also when the wrong trees are planted in the wrong place, they can cause more harm than good.
Durability: Low (less than 100 years)
Is it compatible with a net zero removal portfolio: No
See our more detailed page on afforestation here!
Fi is a Climate Consultant at Supercritical with a MSc in Climate Change from King's College.
Tom specialises in selling carbon removal at Supercritical and hosts The Carbon Removal Show podcast.
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