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Ocean-based Negative Emission Technologies - analyzing the feasibility, risks, and cobenefits of ocean-based negative emission technologies for stabilizing the climate

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - OceanNETs (Ocean-based Negative Emission Technologies - analyzing the feasibility, risks, and cobenefits of ocean-based negative emission technologies for stabilizing the climate)

Reporting period: 2020-07-01 to 2021-12-31

To limit climate change and meet the Paris Agreement goals, governments have recognized that Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) approaches, which are also called Negative Emission Technologies (NETs), will be needed in addition to rapidly reducing CO2 emissions. OceanNETs is an international project that responds to the societal need to rapidly provide a scientifically rigorous and comprehensive assessment of NET options. OceanNETs focuses on analyzing and quantifying the environmental, social, and political feasibility and impacts of ocean-based NETs. The project will close fundamental knowledge gaps on specific ocean-based negative emission technologies (NETs) and provide more in-depth investigations of NETs that have already been suggested to have a high CDR potential, levels of sustainability, or potential co-benefits. The project will identify to what extent, and how, ocean-based NETs can play a role in keeping climate change within the limits set by the Paris Agreement. OceanNETs has a coherent transdisciplinary approach that brings together many experts and stakeholders. One key motivation is to provide knowledge that can directly be translated into political and societal action.

The two main approaches in OceanNETs are to (a) fill fundamental NET knowledge gaps with disciplinary, inter-, and transdisciplinary research and (b) develop and explore pathways of NET deployment for comprehensive case studies. The approaches (Fig. 1) center on two main themes: 1) Society and NETs and 2) The Earth system response to NETs that are combined together for Cross-cutting activities. To do this, the project brings together a team of economists, political and social scientists, legal scholars, oceanographers (specializing in ecology and biogeochemistry), climate scientists, Earth system modelers, and geochemists from 14 institutes in Europe and Australia. OceanNETs consortium is further supported by the project and communication manager, financial manager, data manager, and the stakeholder’s engagement manager.
In WP1 progress has been made at accounting for ocean-based NET efficiencies (at lowering atmospheric CO2) and translating this information into carbon credits, as well as assessing NET operational and economic cost. WP2 has worked toward identifying the applicable governance, policy, and international legal dimensions of ocean-based NETs. WP3 has for the first time mapped laypersons’ perceptions of and reasoning about research and deployment of marine CDR methods. WP4 has laid the groundwork for modeling ocean-based NETs. WP5 has performed laboratory and mesocosm experiments on ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE). WP6 has scoped OAE deployment scenarios and completed a full life cycle analysis for ocean liming. WP7 has established a stakeholder reference group (SRG) and held a deliberative workshop and public event in conjunction with the WP5 mesocosm experiments. WP8 has implemented the Data Management Plan and set up data management services and infrastructures for the project. WP9 ensured that project communication, administrative, and financial management progressed smoothly. WP10 has ensured compliance of all OceanNETs activities with respect to the 'ethics requirements'.
The main premise of OceanNETs is to assess the potential, effectiveness, efficiency, risks, and costs of ocean-based NETs. To this end, WP1 developed a novel analytic method and a corresponding base framework to analyze strategic regional interactions in an integrated assessment model of climate change. In WP4, capabilities of earth system models (ESMs) are being developed and pushed beyond state of the art. Within the project, WP4 expects to implement novel and improved parameterizations for representing ocean NETs. The assessment of the potential and side effects of certain NETs is becoming possible (often for the first time) with improved ESMs. All findings in WP5’s experiments on ocean alkalinization fill important knowledge gaps and go beyond the state of the art. Experimental results, as well as the model simulations conducted in WP5, will provide a knowledge base to assess the effectiveness of different ocean alkalinization approaches. WP6’s life cycle assessment on ocean liming is the first of its kind on an ocean alkalinization approach (and possibly any other ocean-based CDR). The obtained LCA results are currently under the peer-review process, to further improve their validity and transparency and to be able to be communicated to wider audiences.

OceanNETs also aims to cover the issue of public acceptance and explores the international governance requirements associated with the large-scale deployment of ocean-based NETs. WP2 has therefore drawn a wider governance framework that considers the potential positive and negative impacts of ocean-based NETS on the environment, and by that on society and the global economy, going beyond the state of the art. This assessment will provide a basis for a broader discussion on “good governance” of ocean-based NETs, the potential integration of ocean-based NETs in global climate frameworks, and the question of policy and governance coherence for the ocean as a transboundary, global common, and with other global policy and societal goals such as the 2030 Agenda. WP3 provided a first overview of past research and research gaps on the public acceptability of marine CDR. Comparative group discussions were held in two countries on four marine CDR methods, including alkalinity enhancement and artificial upwelling. Results extend beyond state-of-the-art assumptions about the public acceptability of marine CDR, as the results highlight that introducing materials and substances, such as rock powder or wave pumps, is perceived as problematic by many (e.g. as pollution).

A major aim of OceanNETs is to support major international, national, and EU scientific assessments and to develop a comprehensive medium-to-long term vision and analytical framework on pathways to achieve climate neutrality in the perspective of reaching the Paris Agreement goals. Substantial efforts have been made to put the project work to use already in this first phase of OceanNETs. Several new open access publications have been achieved. OceanNETs scientists have also promoted the new results through their specific roles in international assessments and strategic documents. Project scientists contributed to the USA National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report on a research strategy for ocean-based CDR and helped to produce guidance for an international code of conduct on ocean-based CDR. Several scientists were also asked to join the GESAMP Working Group on marine geoengineering and to contribute information on ocean-based CDR to the IPCC AR6 WGIII report. OceanNETs also participated in a COP26 side event on NETs at the EU Pavilion:

To enhance OceanNETs' international cooperation, WP7 informs all relevant parties on the project's research agenda and results through its work on stakeholder engagement. A diverse group of stakeholders has begun engaging in a dialogue on ocean-based CDR, enabling a wide range of perspectives to be heard and integrated into OceanNETs work. The responsible research and innovation protocol that is being developed in WP7 will be of high relevance to the broader science, engineering, and policy communities involved in the development of ocean-based forms of carbon dioxide removal.
Fig. 1: OceanNETs structure and foci.