May 31, 2023
The climate crisis is a complex and urgent challenge that demands coordinated and sustained action from everyone. In a world where skepticism and uncertainty abound, trust has become the cornerstone upon which our collective journey towards a sustainable future needs to be built. In this blog post, we take a deep dive into the vital role of trust in addressing a crucial aspect of climate action - carbon removal. We share our perspective on what constitutes trustworthy carbon removal and our approach to operationalizing trust across everything we do.
The scientific consensus is unequivocal: to achieve net-negative CO2 emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must take decisive action to reduce fossil emissions. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that emission reductions alone are no longer sufficient. We now face the daunting challenge of addressing hard-to-abate emissions from industries such as aviation, aluminum, concrete and cement, shipping, steel, and trucking.
Moreover, the stark reality is that our carbon budget is rapidly depleting. With approximately 260 gigatons (Gt) remaining to stay within 1.5°C of global warming, and annual emissions exceeding 40 Gt, we have a mere 6.5 years until the budget is depleted. This alarming data emphasizes the urgent need for immediate and decisive action, including curbing emissions and investing significantly in carbon removal technologies.
However, the current scale of CDR, which accounts for 2 Gt of CO2 per year, out of which less than 0.01% is durable, highlights the urgent need to scale up durable CDR by over 5,000 times, reaching the required 10 Gt by 2050. But critical questions around CDR technologies and methodologies abound. Not all removals are of high-quality, durability, and verifiability, and simply relying on promising new technologies for effective CDR alone is insufficient to convince public and private stakeholders to prioritize funding CDR projects. Unfortunately, many companies have pursued CDR strategies only to realize later that the outcomes did not meet expectations or lacked long-term durability. These instances have led to accusations of greenwashing, impeding progress not only for the companies involved but also for the wider adoption of other credible CDR technologies.
It is key to understand that CDR has a distinct value proposition compared to traditional industries that prioritize meeting consumer demands for comfort, safety, or joy. Its unique value proposition is rooted in a shared responsibility to ensure the well-being of current and future societies by mitigating the effects of climate change. This responsibility recognizes that we are all stakeholders in the health of our planet and must collaborate to address the challenges of climate change. CDR is an ethical imperative that requires us to prioritize the greater good and think beyond individual interests.
However, without trust, it becomes nearly impossible to overcome the challenges of scaling carbon removal and unlocking its full potential. Trust in CDR can inspire collective action and instill confidence in carbon removal initiatives that ensure CDR is real, the environmental integrity of carbon removal is upheld, and communities and ecosystems are not harmed.
At Carbonfuture, trust is not just a buzzword – it is a core value that permeates everything we do. We have developed a strategic and intentional approach to operationalize trust, guided by five dimensions of trustworthy carbon removal outlined in our Trust Framework: transparency, quality, impact, innovation, and collaboration. By prioritizing these dimensions, we aim to build a CDR industry that is not only effective but also robust, scalable, and equitable.
To elaborate further:
We are fully committed to transparency and proactively sharing information about our projects, methodologies, and progress. By keeping our stakeholders well-informed, we foster understanding, accountability, and trust. Our seamless digital carbon tracking system, known as digital Measurement, Reporting, and Verification (dMRV), ensures that the removal of carbon dioxide is accurately measured, and real, and avoids double counting. This digital tracking system provides visibility into the entire lifecycle of carbon removal projects. We have recently outlined our perspective on the ecosystem roles involved in the journey from project initiation to credit issuance. Additionally, we enable the trading of independently verified credits, allowing CDR purchasers and suppliers to interact economically.
Upholding the highest standards is at the core of our carbon removal efforts. We ensure rigorous methodologies, reliable data, and comprehensive verification processes to deliver results that are accurate, dependable, and worthy of trust. Carbonfuture aligns with multiple independent standards, including Carbon Standards International (CSI C-Sink for industrial biochar production and its utilization, CSI Artisan C-Sink for artisanal biochar production and its utilization), and VCS Verra (VM0044 for biochar utilization), and other leading standards. We issue certificates exclusively for verified removals, ensuring that we have accurate information about the removal's location, life cycle assessment (LCA), and a clear and conservative approach to deal with potential reversal in order to guarantee its permanent effectiveness. Our carbon removal tracking system, which adheres to the strictest standards and methodologies, includes internal verification before issuing any credit to ensure the accuracy and reliability of our carbon removal claims.
Our focus on impact lies at the heart of trustworthy carbon removal. We aim to make a tangible difference by delivering measurable and verifiable environmental and social benefits. By demonstrating real-world outcomes, we build trust in our commitment to creating a just and liveable future. For instance, our newly launched artisanal biochar program provides economic, environmental, and community benefits in developing countries and communities where the climate crisis hits hardest. Our partners, including the Dutch Carboneers in India and Biochar Life in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Thailand, are dedicated to empowering smallholder farmers through education and implementation of biochar production and application. These initiatives have a positive impact on the environment and the livelihoods of farmers. By remediating depleted soils, enhancing water and nutrient retention, and increasing crop yields, these projects not only contribute to sustainable agriculture but also create new income streams for local farmers through the support and access to the Voluntary Carbon Market.
Embracing innovation is vital for scaling the carbon removal industry to be climate-relevant, and we address this through a two-pronged approach. First, our portfolio approach to carbon removal underscores the recognition that we need a diverse range of carbon removal technologies, techniques, and partnerships to address the climate crisis at scale and with the necessary urgency. This includes frontier solutions such as enhanced rock weathering (ERW), bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), and direct air capture and storage (DACS). By collaborating with companies in our Catalyst program, a program dedicated to helping innovative companies scale their operations and achieve greater impact, we facilitate access to resources, knowledge, and networks. We also recognize the importance of digital technologies in supporting the carbon removal industry, and are committed to providing carbon removal suppliers and buyers with cutting-edge digital solutions to enhance transparency, scalability, efficiency, and auditability. By leveraging digital tools for measurement, reporting, and verification, we ensure that carbon removal projects are trustworthy and reliable. By offering transparency and auditability, we enhance the financeability of projects at scale, attracting critical investments and driving the growth of the industry to the levels needed to achieve our collective climate goals.
Collaboration plays a vital role in tackling the complex challenges of carbon removal. We engage with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds, including researchers, policymakers, industry leaders, and local communities. Through collaboration, we leverage collective expertise and resources, fostering trust and amplifying the impact of our initiatives. We believe that together we can create a future where high-quality carbon removal technologies are widely available and used to mitigate the effects of climate change.
To operationalize the Trust Framework effectively, we have established a set of specific criteria for each dimension. These criteria, serving as measurable benchmarks, ensure consistency and intentionality across our organization, leaving no room for ambiguity. By prioritizing trust through robust internal processes, external accountability, and stakeholder engagement, we add specificity and enhance our ability to operationalize trust intentionally and consistently.
For example, as part of operationalizing trust, we engage independent third-party auditors and validators to ensure the credibility of our carbon removal projects. Their involvement bolsters confidence and enhances trust in the outcomes and impacts we claim. Simultaneously, we actively involve stakeholders in the decision-making process, fostering open dialogue and building trust while strengthening relationships within the communities we operate. This comprehensive approach ensures transparency, quality, impact, innovation, and collaboration are upheld at every stage of our operations, fostering trust in our carbon removal efforts.
At Carbonfuture, we are making the vision of trustworthy carbon removal a reality by investing in key enablers that reinforce trust such as digital technology, standards and methodologies, and policy.
Digital technology emerges as a transformative force, optimizing and streamlining processes throughout the carbon removal value chain. By embracing digital solutions, we enhance transparency, ensuring that stakeholders have clear visibility into our operations, and connect the key stakeholders in the carbon removal space (suppliers, buyers, standards). Moreover, digital technology empowers us to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in our pursuit of durable CDR solutions that are climate-relevant. By harnessing the power of data analytics, machine learning, and automation, we can optimize every step of the carbon removal process. From project identification and planning to implementation, monitoring, and reporting, digital tools can enable us to streamline workflows, identify patterns, and make data-driven decisions.
Standards and methodologies establish a framework for uniformity, comparability, and credible reporting of carbon removal methods, instilling confidence in the effectiveness of our efforts. Meanwhile, supportive policies such as the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF) and the DAC Hubs Program provide the necessary incentives, regulations, and frameworks to drive innovation, attract investments, and propel the deployment of durable CDR solutions at scale.
In our pursuit of making carbon removal climate-relevant, trust is paramount. The urgency and complexity of the climate crisis demand coordinated and sustained action from all stakeholders, underscoring the critical role of trust. We firmly believe that trust must transcend mere aspirations; it requires concrete actions and deliberate prioritization of transparency, quality, impact, innovation, and collaboration in everything we do.