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Clearly described carbon dioxide removal will contribute to EU climate goals, report suggests

A recent paper provides concise definitions of terms related to CO2 removal and gives an overview of existing technologies and their potential for emissions reduction.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) systems are increasingly recognised as a crucial emissions reduction technology for the energy sector. However, their deployment has been limited, with high cost being the most significant hurdle. With the EU’s commitment to formally adopt its 2050 target to reach net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the role of CCUS as part of CO2 removal is readily acknowledged in the European Climate Law for achieving climate neutrality by 2050. “The natural sink of forests, soils, agricultural lands and wetlands should be maintained and further increased and carbon removal technologies, such as carbon capture and storage and carbon capture and utilisation, should be made cost-effective and deployed.” Despite such efforts, there’s still no clear and officially accepted definition of carbon removal. A document supported by the EU-funded SESZEP project, and prepared on behalf of the Advisory Council of the Zero Emissions Platform, a European Technology and Innovation Platform (ETIP ZEP), provides definitions of commonly used terms related to carbon dioxide removal (CDR). ZEP advises the European Commission on CCUS technologies and associated policies. The report argues that although the terms GHG removal and negative emission technology have been used interchangeably to describe similar processes, “it is best to address the removal of CO2 on its own.” It notes that GHG removal “refers to the removal of all greenhouse gases,” and adds that “the effect of CO2 and other greenhouse gases on the climate are not entirely ‘like-for-like’ and the nature of their accumulation in the atmosphere is also quite different.” The report states: “Similarly, Negative Emissions refers to the concept of removals, which is the opposite of emissions. This term doesn’t refer specifically to any greenhouse gas. Negative Emission Technologies refers to specific technologies or processes which can be used to achieve Carbon Dioxide Removal.”

Main principles

The same report highlights four main principles “for any practice or technology to be commonly considered as achieving ‘Carbon Dioxide Removal’”. These principles require that CO2 must be “physically removed from the atmosphere” and that the CDR process must permanently remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits. “The total quantity of atmospheric carbon dioxide removed and permanently stored is greater than the total quantity of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere.” The CDR report also states: “Upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions, associated with the removal and storage process, are comprehensively estimated and included in the emission balance.” The CDR report points to the need for a CO2 transport and storage infrastructure to achieve the EU’s climate targets. It suggests that the revision of the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) regulation “should be based on the European Green Deal and encompass the principle of climate neutrality by 2050.” The TEN-E policy focuses on linking the energy infrastructure of EU countries. During a plenary session in July, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in which Members of the European Parliament call for a revision of funding guidelines for cross-border, trans-European energy infrastructure projects to bring them in line with EU climate policy. They also recommend that the revision of the TEN-E guidelines should take into account the EU’s energy and climate targets for 2030. The SESZEP (Support to Energy Stakeholders of the Zero Emission Platform) project ended in April 2018. It helped to increase awareness regarding the role of CCUS policies in reaching 2050 targets. For more information, please see: SESZEP project website


SESZEP, CCUS, carbon dioxide removal, climate neutrality, emissions, CO2

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