Policies to Speed Carbon Removal Tech, Disrupt Business-as-Usual

Press Release
October 20, 2022
Contact: Alec Gerlach, GerlachA@c2es.org

Brief: C2ES Cites Policies to Speed Carbon Removal Tech, Disrupt Business-as-Usual Emissions Curve

Target: Accelerate Equitable Deployment of Carbon Dioxide Removal by 2030

Read the Brief

WASHINGTON—The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) today released a new brief that identifies a range of policies that would accelerate deployment of engineered carbon removal (CDR) technologies, while bending business-as-usual emissions trends.

Accelerating the equitable development and deployment of engineered CDR solutions by 2030 creates a greater chance of achieving durable, gigaton-scale removals and ultimately net-zero emissions by 2050. The C2ES brief, Engineered Carbon Dioxide Removal: Scalability & Durability, points to the need to prioritize community engagement, climate justice, and additive emission reductions for carbon removal technology deployment to truly be successful.

“Engineered carbon removal is a tremendous opportunity—and an essential solution to meet Paris-aligned goals, but this only works as a piece of the whole-of-economy effort to slash climate pollution everywhere possible,” said C2ES Vice President of Policy and Outreach Brad Townsend. “While carbon removal holds great potential for addressing carbon dioxide emissions, it’s not a substitute for rapid decarbonization or a solution for the criteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants associated with fossil fuels. We cannot continue to allow frontline communities to disproportionally bear that cost.”

Engineered CDR projects may impact frontline communities in at least two ways: the potential to extend the lifetime of polluting industries and the possibility that the nascent technology may have local impacts. These concerns attest to the need for concerted community engagement and inclusion in decision-making from the conception of carbon removal projects.

The C2ES brief concludes that climate justice must be embedded in strategies to accelerate development and deployment of engineered carbon technology solutions. As deployment progresses, it will be important that communities have opportunities to own the benefits of CDR, and this need should be placed front and center. Additionally, training opportunities are critical to prepare the local workforce for economic opportunities associated with installation and operation of CDR projects.

To be effective in stabilizing global temperature, CDR solutions will need to deployed at gigaton scale, following smaller-scale demonstration projects in the near-term. Engineered solutions have significant potential for scale considering the smaller footprint necessary by comparison to natural removal solutions. Engineered removal technologies also present the advantage of durability, in that geologic storage and use in long-lived materials, such as aggregate and concrete, present minimal risk of carbon leakage back into the atmosphere.

“The challenge to meet net-zero emissions by 2050 is great enough that investments in deploying and scaling engineered carbon removal solutions are a must-have, particularly to account for persistent emissions from heavy industry processes,” said C2ES Solutions Fellow Mahmoud Abouelnaga. “Critically, this technology has to be an additional element to complement deep emission reductions across the economy. Carbon dioxide removal is not an excuse to delay mitigation efforts and stick to business as usual.”

The brief also offers a range of goals for policy intervention to accelerate equitable scaling of carbon removal technology, including:

  • Infrastructure development: supporting development of regional carbon dioxide transport networks and accelerating commercial carbon dioxide storage projects.
  • Regulatory framework: improving the permitting process for Class VI wells (for permanent geologic storage), providing a clear federal regulatory framework for siting of interstate carbon dioxide pipelines, and developing a clear framework for long-term liability related to stored carbon dioxide.
  • Market-based mechanisms: using carbon price revenues to support carbon removal projects, making CDR projects eligible for credits in clean energy standards, and requiring federal procurement of carbon removals.
  • Financial incentives: promoting the improved 45Q tax credit and expanding the investment tax credit to support deployment of engineered CDR.
  • Research, development, and demonstration (RD&D): directing the Department of Energy to clarify its Carbon Negative Shot plans to help CDR technologies scale and expanding RD&D investments in carbon dioxide utilization technologies.
  • Equitable transition: establishing requirements for funding applicants to show local economic and social benefits, expanding apprenticeship programs and grants, and modernizing federal environmental justice engagement.

This brief is part of the C2ES Climate Innovation 2050 “Closer Look” series that investigates important facets of the decarbonization challenge, focusing on key technologies, critical policy instruments, and cross-sectoral challenges. Review more from the C2ES Closer Look series here.


About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) works to secure a safe and stable climate, by accelerating the global transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and a thriving, just, and resilient economy. Learn more at www.c2es.org.