Even if by 2045, demand for electricity were fully covered by renewables, everyone drove an electric vehicle, and companies produced steel using green hydrogen, Germany would probably still have annual carbon dioxide emissions of 37 to 73 million metric tons. This would represent between five and ten percent of current greenhouse gas emissions. These findingings were published in the recent study entitled CO2 Removal: Necessity and Regulation Options (Link in German) by Berlin-based climate research organisation Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
The appraisal was commissioned by the Climate Protection science platform, the mouthpiece of the scientific community which acts as advisor to the German government on issues concerning the implementation and ongoing development of Germany’s climate strategy. After all, these remaining emissions, which are entirely or hardly inevitable, must be offset in order to hit the carbon neutrality target. The study clearly concludes that, in the future, substantial amounts of carbon dioxide have to be withdrawn from the atmosphere to achieve this goal, which also involves capturing it. For example, carbon dioxide can be stored in plants during reforestation or in the soil as vegetable coal or forced down into the subsoil.
This is why the scientists took a deep dive into negative emissions and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (a good, short overview can be found in a brief dossier by MCC (Link in German)). On about 60 pages, they summarise the state of research and furnish information on potential technologies, obstacles to large-scale deployment as well as regulation and subsidisation options. Among the methods considered are removal techniques such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS) and reforestation accompanied by a discussion how to subsidise them through carbon pricing.
The upshot is that politicians must take action now to close the substantial innovation gap in this field and establish the necessary framework. After all, the authors claim that large-scale carbon dioxide removal must start as early as 2030, which is eight years from now.
“The good news is that the German government is working on a strategy for the long-term development and usage of negative emissions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the MCC and one of two chairs of the scientific platform’s steering committee, commenting on the publication of the study. “The study should explore in more detail the possible applications and potential of various options, develop the necessary legal and regulatory framework along with subsidy measures and, last but not least, initiate a widespread public debate on the matter.”