The European Commission’s recent approval of a set of laws known as the Fit for 55 package marks a significant step towards reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. This package includes measures such as phasing out free allowances in the Emissions Trading System from 2026, introducing a new carbon leakage instrument to protect the EU industry, and establishing a Social Climate Fund to combat energy and mobility poverty. With a projected global permanent Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) per year of 3.8 billion tons by 2050, CDR has become a major focus in the fight against climate change.
A Hit-or-Miss Bet for Reaching Carbon Neutrality Goals?
Carbon Dioxide Removal refers to human activities that involve CO2 removal directly from the atmosphere. Here are a few examples:
Direct Air Capture (DAC)
Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)
Carbon removal has sparked great controversy among scientists and the general public with an ongoing debate surrounding its efficacy, as the existing CDR technologies remain unproven and have been mainly tested on a small scale. Therefore, further scientific research is necessary to advance these promising solutions from theoretical concepts to commercially viable applications.
Furthermore, many are torn on the issue, arguing that it creates a “false hope” effect suggesting that reversing global warming is achievable solely through CO2 removal. For example, the average carbon footprint per person is estimated to be 4.7 tons/year. If 1 tree absorbs around 20 kgs of CO2 annually, this means that planting 235 trees would be enough to offset this. As simple as that. Wouldn’t it be nice?
What’s been overlooked is the significant amount of fertile land required for afforestation and the fact that trees absorb CO2 while growing and release the stored CO2 back into the atmosphere when they die and decay, burn in a wildfire or are chopped down and burned for fuel.
To quote Bill Gates: “The most cost-effective tree-related strategy for climate change is to stop cutting down so many of the trees we already have”.
What about new technologies?
Undoubtedly, carbon removal is only part of the solution – the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the source continues to be more urgent than ever. Decarbonisation of CO2-intensive industries through process optimisation, sustainable supply chains and the use of green energy remains a focal point. UP Catalyst’s technology is a promising step towards decarbonisation as it utilizes CO2 at an industry site to produce sustainable carbon materials for various applications. The majority of CDR approaches address the primary human source of climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere to be stored underground, inside the trees or under the ocean floor. However, UP Catalyst gives the unwanted waste product an instant green purpose without any storing and future leakage worries.