We Will Rock You – Could Carbon Removals Be The Fastest Growing Industry In History?

Dr Gabrielle Gabrielle

Co-founder at CUR8

Here’s a stark fact which is either incredibly depressing or insanely motivating depending on the way you look at it: if we want to meet net zero by 2050 we’ll need to remove and store 5-16 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. That’s on top of fast and deep cuts in emissions.

However, the available supply of high quality (i.e. timely, durable and verifiable) removals is currently only a tiny fraction of that. The most generous estimates say that by the end of 2022 it might amount to 3 million tonnes. Even on the most radical and optimistic emissions reduction pathway that leaves the carbon removals market currently delivering just 0.06% (or roughly one-seventeen-hundredth) of what’s required. So, we need to scale, and fast.

The good news is we can. Indeed between this year and last there has been a 30-fold increase in supply. If the industry kept doing that we’d be drawing down more than enough carbon by 2025. Hurrah! Sadly, the recent massive percentage increase in supply is a function of the industry coming into existence (going from basically nothing to very little).

How do we do it? In time-honoured fashion by increasing demand (thus stimulating more supply to come online) while reducing costs (making it cheaper and easier for more people to buy) – the ‘economies of scale’ that have taken so many industries from nothing to ubiquity. Counter-intuitively the logic of the market, which has caused most of our climate woes can, in this case, partially redeem itself. As lifelong committed environmentalists at CUR8 we still find this strange. But let’s be clear: the level of growth needed will be unprecedented (between 36 and 42% sustained year on year). Some of the tools already at our disposal make it entirely possible, particularly in the areas of enhanced weathering and soil carbon which can scale incredibly quickly. Our enhanced weathering partner, UNDO, have a scaling strategy to take them to 1 billion tonnes of annual removals by 2030, eclipsing the growth rates quoted above by an order of magnitude. With the legislative moves coming to make all organisations legally responsible for reaching net zero we’re going to need that level of ambition, which is why CUR8 is doing everything it can to scale supply of quality removals whilst driving down cost. That means bringing new customers to our suppliers, investing in new approaches to drawdown, storage and verification, and working with the industry and its legislators to create a functioning and efficient carbon removals market.