Carbon removal technology is needed for reaching net zero

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Reaching net zero is impossible without more plans and policies to remove carbon dioxide, says a report published yesterday by experts working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

As the first of its kind, the report is aimed at updating the world on the state of play on carbon dioxide removal (CDR), from research to policymaking to deployment and scientific analysis to public perception.

Scaling up carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is an urgent priority, as are efforts to rapidly reduce emissions if we are to meet the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement, the report states.

“CDR involves capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it durably on land, in the ocean, in geological formations or in products,” according to the report.

“Rather than focusing on one or two options we should encourage a portfolio, so that we get to net zero quickly,” says Oxford’s Dr. Steve Smith, report leader.


Why biotech is the key to net zero

The report announcement highlights the need to use new carbon-removal technologies, including two involving biotech—biochar and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage—as well as direct air capture and enhanced rock weathering.

Biotech companies are using carbon capture. Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) member LanzaTech captures carbon to make sustainable fuel, fragrances, and materials. The technology is utilized by LanzaJet (also a BIO member), which produces sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

LanzaJet said that “using a range of sustainable, low carbon intensity ethanol, including from waste-based feedstocks,” their company’s new facility will produce “10 million gallons of SAF and renewable diesel per year from ethanol,” doubling the current SAF production in the U.S.

As another example, Newlight Technologies uses ocean microorganisms to convert carbon from the air into AirCarbon®, a biomaterial used to make wallets, purses, phone cases, and sunglasses.

How gene editing can capture carbon

Gene editing can help capture carbon by developing CO2-hungry microalgaebacteria, and crops with deeper roots that help hold carbon in the soil.

“Genetic engineering of microalgal species and technology innovations could improve microalgal photosynthesis efficiency for CO2 biosequestration and biorefineries,” says an article on Cell.

The article mentions that “microalgae are promising due to non-interference with agriculture, thus supporting food security, promoting energy security, and posing fewer environmental issues.”

Policy is more than needed in this sector. The report calls for policies promoting research and the use of carbon removal technologies, something BIO supports.

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