According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC), to have a 50:50 chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the world must reduce CO2 emissions to around net-zero by mid-century, with a decline of around 40-50 per cent achieved by 2030. Understanding this, many countries and companies are now committed to achieving net-zero by 2050. However, this report by the Energy Transition Commission (ETC) identifies that even with the most ambitious possible reduction in gross emissions, cumulative CO2 emissions between now and 2050 will exceed the carbon budget. In addition, even the most ambitious decarbonisation strategies will not be able to reduce gross emissions to absolute zero by 2050, with a low level of CO2, N2O and CH4 residual emissions likely continuing beyond mid-century.
The findings of the report conclude that in addition to dramatic decarbonisation, a significant volume of carbon dioxide removals (CDR) will be required, to achieve two objectives:
- To neutralize the impact of the likely carbon budget overshoot ahead of mid-century. The report’s scenarios suggest a need for at least 70-225 Gt CO2 of cumulative removals between now and 2050.
- To neutralize continuing residual emissions after mid-century of both CO2 and N2O, which might run at about 3-5 Gt CO2e /year.
The ETC report analysed the potential for different forms of carbon dioxide removal and their role in climate mitigation strategies. An ambitious development of a portfolio of CDR solutions, combined with ambitious decarbonisation, could prevent ‘overshoot’ of the 1.5°C carbon budget in 2050. The portfolio includes a range of Natural Climate Solutions (NCS), engineered solutions which rely on geological storage, and a number of hybrid options, also referred to as Biomass with Carbon Removal and Storage (BiCRS). In addition, the report discusses the risks presented by these approaches, their potential, and how they might be financed by either countries or companies.
The report also looks into the funding requirements for the portfolio of carbon removals. The report estimates that annual capital investments need to rise to reach over USD100 billion over the next 3 decades, with significant investments in nature restoration required over the coming decade.