What is carbon dioxide removal (CDR)?
The definition of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is rather literal – taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. CDR is classified into two main categories: enhancing natural processes, like restoring ecosystems and planting trees; and engineered processes, like sucking carbon from of the air and storing it underground. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), Direct Air Capture (DAC), and enhanced weathering are all part of the second variety.
The University of Oxford produced a taxonomy that further classifies these actions according to the durability of their storage method. Nature-based solutions are less permanent and with a higher risk of re-releasing the sequestered carbon. Conversely, technology-based removals offer more reliable and long-lasting sequestration.
Carbon removal has become widely popular of late. The European Union is developing a carbon removal certification framework to boost emergent technologies. The US Biden government is pouring 1.2 billion USD into building two “commercial-scale air capture facilities”. The Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM) launched a series of principles for carbon removal and avoidance projects.
The goal, they all agree, is not to substitute rapid emissions reduction, but to counterbalance hard-to-abate or residual emissions, those that companies cannot get rid of due to the nature of their operations. The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a standard-setting body for corporate climate goals, limits the use of carbon solutions to 10% of a company’s total emissions.
The world, however, needs carbon removal. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates technological solutions will have to suck 75 million metric tonnes of CO2 annually by 2030 to keep us under the 1.5°C threshold. The tech, however, is still nascent, and funding is lacking. Market innovations and corporate action could offer ways of raising the necessary cash.
How C-Capsule intends to change the carbon market
Evident, the registry provider that supports International Renewable Energy Certificates (I-RECs) worldwide, is launching a new product that aims to bridge the finance gap and unlock impactful climate action. They call it C-Capsule.
“C-Capsules are certificates evidencing durable carbon removal activities,” says Travis Caddy, Product Development Manager at Evident. Like traditional carbon credits, C-Capsules represent one tonne of CO2 removed from the atmosphere. The difference is their scope. “We want to bring the same simplicity, speed, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness of I-RECs to a new type of carbon instrument specifically made for durable carbon dioxide removal.”
Evident is focusing on technology-based removals that sequester carbon for over 100 years. DAC, CCS, mineralisation, and enhanced weathering will fall under the C-Capsule umbrella. The business case for this decision is simple: it is easier to quantify the output of an industrial scale DAC facility than to calculate the volume of CO2 absorbed by a forest. This translates into high-integrity credits.
Such focus, Evident argues, will also invigorate a crucial market. “The purpose of C-Capsule is twofold. Firstly, to empower individuals, organizations, and governments to procure high-quality carbon removal. Secondly, to provide financing to these projects to get them off the ground and help them scale,” adds Travis.
Why purchase carbon removals?
Siphoning and storing carbon is expensive. Current prices can exceed 1 000 USD per tonne of CO2. And while every project developer in the business is rushing to reduce costs, C-Capsule wants to offer much needed money for further innovation. As Travis puts it: “There is often no other means of financing carbon removal other than selling carbon removal certificates, particularly for something like direct air capture. That means C-Capsules are very, very highly additional.”
The other big benefit of their product, Evident argues, is credibility. “The fundamental problem with buying carbon solutions for corporate buyers is that, if I emit one tonne and I pay a project to avoid emitting one tonne, my one tonne is still left in the atmosphere, right?” Travis continues. “Removals allow you to neutralise your one tonne. You pay someone to actively remove and draw down carbon from the atmosphere.”
Transparency and quality are pillars of the carbon market. The organisations buying credits need assurances from producers that CO2 sequestration is actually occurring. Simultaneously, standards such as SBTi and the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity Initiative (VCMI) are setting higher requirements for corporate claims. In a marketplace that runs on trust, removals –measurable, additional, easy to locate– seem naturally positioned to brace the reliability of voluntary action.
Governments will play a role too. The European Commission is working on a framework that will establish quality criteria for removals produced on the EU, with the goal of improving the integrity of the budding industry. Similar schemes in other countries and regions are likely to follow.
As the carbon removal space develops, it will undoubtedly attract the interest of more companies with net zero targets, investors, developers, regulators, and other stakeholders. Evident plans to launch C-Capsule before the end of 2023. This initiative and similar efforts to strengthen voluntary action and draw carbon from the atmosphere cannot come soon enough.