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How much carbon do we need to remove each year to hit climate targets?

A recent report from State of Carbon Dioxide Removal (1) found that we need to remove at least 7 billion tonnes of CO2 every year by 2050 in order to meet the 1.5°c Paris Agreement target. Oxford University (2) states that only 2 billion tonnes are currently being removed annually through Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR).

Carbon Dioxide Removal covers a variety of techniques that capture carbon from our air and store it securely. The CO2 being removed by CDR is exclusively sourced by human activities and is one of the key contributors to global warming in our atmosphere, and ultimately, climate change. We must remove as much of this excess CO2 as we can to reduce the climate impacts currently ongoing across the globe (from flash floods to heatwaves and forest fires).

Methods of CDR

In the quest to reduce the carbon in our atmosphere, CDR options are what we need more of. We’re currently removing less than 25% of what we need to every year, which means we must improve our carbon dioxide removal solutions. Many methods of CDR are nature based, which means restoring landscapes and bringing more biological plant species back into the environment.

Tree planting CDR

One of the most beneficial methods is planting trees. A typical tree can absorb just over 20 kg of CO2 every year, meaning over a 100 year span that tree will have removed around one tonne of CO2. Not only do trees absorb the CO2, but they also give our oxygen, which is beneficial for the environment and biodiversity. Deforestation is a tremendous loss for biodiversity and for carbon capture, so projects focusing on growing tree numbers are vital for the future of our planet.

Ocean-based CDR

Another method of CDR is ocean-based (3). The ocean plays a huge role for our planet. Taking up over 70% of the planet’s surface, the ocean absorbs almost 30% of CO2 as well as solar radiation. The ocean offers numerous options to capture and store carbon including blue carbon (carbon sequestered and stored by coastal and marine ecosystems) which have been impacted by increased greenhouse gases. If blue carbon ecosystems become too damaged, they will eventually release stored carbon back to our atmosphere. Restoring blue carbon will not only revitalise reduced ecosystem diversity but will also provide us with more opportunities for sequestration. As well as the natural blue carbon solution, there are options for deep sea storage, electrochemical ocean CO2 removal, and more.

Grassland and wetland CDR

Additionally, there are nature-based CDR options that include wetland and grassland restoration. These methods prevent habitat degradation which is a key issue that prevents carbon capture. By revitalising habitats and land, biodiversity will grow, and soil and land quality will also improve, allowing for more sequestration and capture of carbon.

Hive’s carbon sequestration project

As part of Hive’s commitment to a net zero future, we are working on a carbon sequestration project in South Africa. The Hive Ecosystems team is restoring thousands of acres of land in the Eastern Cape to revitalise farmland previously degraded by livestock, and to sequester carbon. The team will be planting millions of spekboom cuttings in coming years. The aim is to restore the land and rivers in the region, bringing clean water for local communities and plant/animal inhabitants, as well as re-establishing the dense thicket that once covered the farms.

The restoration is just one side of the project, there is also a carbon sequestration model. The plants will capture carbon from the atmosphere and retain it in the soil. This will then be reviewed in five years’ time to establish the positive impact of the planting and will begin providing the opportunity to sell carbon credits from the farm. As the soil quality improves, due to the increased number of plants and enhanced water retention, the CO2 capture will grow exponentially over the project lifetime.

References:

1: State of CDR

2: Oxford University – Study Report 

3: Ocean Visions

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