Airlines and others depend on the “giant…

Airlines and others depend on the “giant loophole” of future (unproven) carbon removal technologies
2021-01-15 14:26:00
Governments and businesses worldwide are hoping they will be able to avoid making drastic carbon cuts, and instead somehow remove carbon from the air – avoiding climate breakdown. The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has advised the UK government that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) at scale, will be needed. All climate goals for “net-zero” depend to some extent on this rather dubious future “get out of jail free” technology. Now a paper by Greenpeace shows the extent to which these aspirations to remove CO2 from the atmosphere have become (as was predicted) a huge loophole.  Aviation is one of the sectors that most needs to depend on carbon removal, as its plans for continuing growth mean more fuel burned – and more carbon. The IPCC reports that the maximum sustainable CO2 removal in 2050 by new forests is between 500 – 3,600 Mt per year. The maximum for BECCS is 500 – 5,000 MtCO2.  Greenpeace says IAG alone anticipates using forests to offset 30 MtCO2/ year by 2050: thus exhausting up to 6% of the available total (if that was 500Mt). For American Airlines, CDR will be used to offset emissions equivalent to about 50% of the present total; for IAG it is over 95%. .Tweet     Stranded Assets By Kate Mackenzie (Bloomberg) 15.1.2021 As governments and companies jostle to show how committed they are to fighting global warming, plans to take carbon dioxide out of the air are becoming a giant loophole — just as experts have warned for years. The UN Principles for Responsible Investment estimates that some 42 companies announced net-zero targets in 2019 and 2020. More than half of those plan to plant trees, preserve forests or capture CO₂ in order to get there, even as their own businesses continue to warm the atmosphere.  These measures, and other technologies to capture greenhouse gases, are collectively known as carbon dioxide removal (CDR). But CDR shouldn’t be a get-out-of-jail-free card for polluters. There’s a limit to how much CO₂ can plausibly be removed. There’s only so much land available to plant new trees, and most other methods are expensive and difficult. As net-zero plans proliferate, some companies assume they can rely disproportionately on CDR to offset their own emissions. It’s not just about planting trees. There are even plans to create “negative emissions” by generating energy from burning biomass, then capturing the emissions produced, a little-used process that also requires large amounts of land. In a new report, Greenpeace UK points out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates between 500 and 3,600 million metric tons of CO₂ could be removed annually through planting new forests by 2050. British Airways operator International Airlines Group and Italian oil company Eni each claim they’ll offset 30 million metric tons per year by then. That could be as much as 12% of the IPCC’s projection, Greenpeace warns. The IPCC also estimates that there’s only about 500 million hectares of land left that can be dedicated to new forests for carbon capture. Royal Dutch Shell Plc alone, Greenpeace says, has proposed planting a tenth of that amount to achieve its net-zero target. Some company plans look even worse when you consider their industries. For example, power generation has long been considered so easy to decarbonize with wind and solar that the IPCC and the International Energy Agency assume it can get to zero emissions without any CDR. That that hasn’t stopped U.S. electricity companies like Duke Energy Corp and Southern Co. from planning to offset the equivalent of 5% and 10% respectively of their current annual emissions with CDR. In a way, this is a problem of the scientific community’s own making. CDR features in virtually every pathway laid out in IPCC reports to keeping glo


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