Negative emissions or carbon removal, processes that permanently or long-term remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, are increasingly seen as a component in the climate policy toolbox. This study, commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, identifies the various aspects of this issue. It provides an up-to-date picture of future demand, supply and possible timelines for negative emissions, addresses the role of CCS, and provides insight into policy needs and options.
We conclude that the development and realisation of the removal of carbon from the atmosphere on a large-scale and permanent basis are crucial to meet climate goals, due to residual emissions and overshooting global climate targets. There is also a wide range of technologies available for negative emissions, ranging from afforestation to biochemistry with underground storage of the biogenic CO2.
However, we also recognise that developing and scaling up these measures to a level sufficient to offset residual emissions and global overshoot is going to take considerable time and effort, and the actual outcome is still uncertain. The potential for carbon removal depends very much on policy commitment, developments in energy supply and industry, and the success of research and innovation pathways. Given these uncertainties, we therefore conclude that reducing emissions and limiting the global overshoot of the 1.5 °C target remains crucial to mitigate climate change.
As policy and technology development is often a long process, it is important to set up a policy framework for negative emissions quickly. As many different policy areas come together in this topic, the further development of negative emissions requires an integrated approach and a vision of the role of carbon removal in society and in the climate policy of the future.