Experts agree: the world needs carbon removals to achieve net zero 

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty on climate change signed by most countries worldwide. It’s an agreement that countries will take climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming. More recently, the global stocktake at COP28 considered progress made towards this goal, and guidance on solutions pathways.  

Leading scientists advise that achieving net zero emissions by 2050 can keep the average global temperature from reaching 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This is the threshold at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and the planet.  

It’s increasingly clear that the world must do everything possible to reduce global emissions, achieve net zero and avoid the worst effects of climate change. But on our current trajectory, even if we stop all emissions tomorrow, the CO₂ in the world’s atmosphere will still be at dangerously high levels.  

To ensure a brighter future, we need to do much more. There is no one simple solution. In fact, we need every solution. One of the key solutions to drive climate action is Carbon Dioxide Removals (CDRs).  

CDRs are critical to achieve a positive future 

Leading international bodies, scientists and academics agree that removing carbon from the atmosphere by deploying CDRs at scale is critical to helping reduce CO₂ levels and meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal.  

“Carbon dioxide removal is essential if the world is to achieve its universally agreed sustainable development goals.” 

Executive Secretaries of the United Nations 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading scientific body for the assessment of climate change, has repeatedly emphasized the crucial role of large-scale carbon removals.  

“All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot project the use of carbon dioxide removal on the order of 100–1000 GtCO2 over the 21st century.” 

IPCC, Global Warming of 1.5 °C Special Report 

The University of Oxford’s in-depth assessment about the State of Carbon Dioxide Removal underscores why CDRs are especially important to counterbalance hard-to-decarbonize industries. These include aviation and the production of cement and steel.  

“The science is clear. No matter which IPCC pathway humanity will follow, holding the global average temperature increase below 1.5°C will require removing increasing amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere… Hard-to-abate greenhouse gas emissions will have to be balanced with removals in order to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions in less than thirty years.”  

The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal Report, 2023 

A recent report by the World Economic Forum encourages both the private and public sector to take ambitious action to support climate solutions. The report also notes how carbon removals can supplement rapid emissions reductions.   

“Removals are a complement to deep emission cuts, not a replacement for them.”  

World Economic Forum

By working in unison with natural processes and mass emissions reduction, CDRs can help secure a lower carbon future.  

Policy leaders recognize the need for CDRs at scale  

Policy leaders are following the science and incorporating CDRs in their net zero strategies.  

In 2021, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the Carbon Negative Shot: a campaign to advance the development of innovative and necessary carbon removal solutions. This announcement acknowledges the urgent need to build the market and infrastructure required to bring carbon removals to gigaton scale.  

“By 2050, we need to be removing gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere and/or oceans. To put this into perspective, one gigaton of CO2 is equivalent to approximately one-fifth of the United States’ annual CO2 emissions in 2022.” 

Carbon Negative Shot, Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management 

The US can’t achieve its ambitious climate goals without carbon removals. The Fifth National Climate Assessment (the US Government’s main report on climate change) includes a target of 1.35 gigatons of CDRs annually by 2050. The Long-Term Strategy of the United States to achieve net zero by 2050 relies on 1-1.8 billion metric tons of carbon removals.  

Industry guidance: corporate climate strategies should include carbon removals  

Since the majority of global emissions come from the private sector, corporate action to support innovative climate solutions and achieve net zero is fundamental.  

When considering their decarbonization strategy and aligning it with climate science, businesses can find guidance from the Oxford Offsetting Principles and the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).  

While organizations should prioritize emissions reductions, carbon removals are also a vital tool since they counterbalance residual emissions and draw down the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.  

The Oxford Offsetting Principles recommend organizations seeking to offset residual emissions use CDRs that offer permanent CO₂ storage. Such CDRs include bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – which Drax is developing – and direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS). The SBTi also suggests companies “neutralize any remaining emissions” with “permanent removals”.  

It’s clear companies shouldn’t wait to incorporate carbon removals into their strategy. Investment from companies now is the only way for the CDRs market to reach net zero scale and ensure the world has the technology available when we need it.  

“There is also a critical need for companies to invest in nascent GHG removal technologies… so that the technology is available to neutralize residual emissions at the long-term SBT date.” 

Science Based Targets, Going Above and Beyond to Contribute to Societal Net-Zero