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What is Carbon Removal?

Global emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases have increased rapidly over the past century, particularly over the last 50 years. To tackle the world’s climate crisis and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, we need a dual strategy: We must significantly reduce emissions going into - and permanently remove CO2 already in the atmosphere. Carbon removal plays a key part in our global human responsibility to create a just and liveable future for generations to come. In fact, nearly all climate model scenarios that achieve international climate goals indicate the need for a near-term focus on carbon removal development and deployment.      

Carbon removal is distinct from point-source carbon capture and storage (CCS) from the fossil power sector and heavy-duty industry. The key is the source of the carbon: Atmospheric carbon vs. fossil or geological sources. CCS refers to the process of capturing CO2 emissions from industrial processes, transporting and storing it underground or in ocean sinks, e.g. capturing emissions from power plants or factories burning coal or lime stone, and keeping it from entering the atmosphere and creating new emissions.

Carbon removal on the other hand actively removes CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it safely for varying lengths of time. Carbon removal approaches, including biochar carbon removal (BCR), carbonated building materials, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS), enhanced weathering (EW), and ocean carbon removal, can be used to counter-balance emissions from the hardest to decarbonize sectors (e.g., aviation, aluminum, concrete and cement, shipping, steel, and trucking) and eventually remove legacy CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.

In summary, carbon removal lowers the overall concentration of CO2 already in the atmosphere.

Further reading: The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal Report
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Carbon Removal Technologies