28.05.2024Carbon Dioxide Removal

We need a clear plan that reaches far into the future!

Policy Brief CDR-Langfriststrategie

At the kick-off event of the stakeholder dialog on the long-term negative emissions (LNe) strategy, CDRterra researchers provided scientific recommendations for its design.

In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100, humanity must achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century and strive for net negative emissions thereafter. Reducing emissions is the top priority and must make by far the biggest contribution. However, there will be residual emissions. We must offset these by removing an equivalent amount of CO₂ from the atmosphere (carbon dioxide removal, CDR). What removal capacities we need in Germany in the medium and long term and how we can build them up must now be discussed as part of the long-term strategy for negative emissions (LNe). At the start of the stakeholder dialogue on LNe, scientists in the CDRterra research programme on land-based CO₂ removal funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research developed recommendations for the design of this strategy and summarized them in a policy brief.

Germany’s climate targets require thoughtful CO₂ removal on a large scale

From 2045, we will emit residual emissions of at least 60 to 130 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year. “If Germany wants to offset these and achieve its climate targets, it needs large-scale CO2 removal. A national long-term CDR strategy that extends far beyond the planned date of greenhouse gas neutrality must form the basis for the development of a CO₂ removal sector that does not jeopardize other sustainability goals,” says CDRterra speaker Prof. Dr. Julia Pongratz from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich at the kick-off event of the stakeholder dialogue on LNe of the German Energy Agency (dena) on May, 28 2024 in Berlin.

“The strategy should contain clear ideas about the regulatory framework and possible financing models, but also how risks are assessed and weighed up. This will give the economy, politics and civil society long-term investment and planning security as well as the motivation to drive forward relevant developments. With ambitious and binding removal targets for the next 20 years and beyond, Germany would also position itself as a pioneer in CDR policy,” continued Pongratz.

A long-term CDR strategy should clarify the following questions:

How high is the removal requirement in Germany?

It must be clarified how high the expected residual emissions will be and how much CO₂ Germany will have to remove from the atmosphere in the medium term (up to 2045) and in the long term (after achieving greenhouse gas neutrality). Corresponding calculations and scenarios should be created by the scientific community.

Is the removal potential in Germany sufficient?

The strategy must show whether the potential of conventional and novel removal methods within Germany is sufficient to cover the demand in the medium and long term.

Part of the required CO₂ removal is to be achieved through conventional CDR processes, such as the (re)afforestation of forests. In addition, novel CO₂ removal methods are needed – for example, direct CO₂ capture from the ambient air with subsequent storage (Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage, DACCS). However, these have hardly been used in Germany to date. There is still a lack of experience in their implementation. All available methods must therefore be comprehensively evaluated in terms of their success rates, costs, risks and interactions.

How can the ramp-up of Carbon Dioxide Removal succeed?

The long-term strategy must outline how the massive expansion of promising CO₂ removal methods can succeed and how it can be financed. In the course of this, it should also be clarified whether cross-border cooperation is necessary – for example in the expansion of the necessary CO₂ transport infrastructure – and how this can be implemented.

How can CO₂ removal succeed without limiting greenhouse gas avoidance?

All new plans on CO₂ removal should be interlinked with strategies and targets for avoiding or reducing greenhouse gas emissions – both at national level (Klimaschutzgesetz, Biomasse- und Kreislaufwirtschaftsstrategie and Carbon-Management-Strategie) and at EU level (“EU Industrial Carbon Management Strategy” and EU climate target for 2040).
It is essential that CO₂ removal does not restrict or replace any other measures to avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

How can acceptance in society be increased?

A national long-term strategy for CO₂ removal will only receive broad public approval if it is developed in cooperation with all relevant social stakeholders. The German government should therefore campaign for broad participation in its development – for example in the economy and industry, as they must provide an important contribution to the expansion of technical removal capacities.

The use of CO₂ removal methods on the required scale can also give rise to a number of conflicts over use and distribution – for example, competition for land, water or renewable energies, as well as conflicts over which stakeholders benefit financially from CO₂ removal and which must bear the subsequent costs. The strategy should therefore provide guidelines for a robust set of removal rules and reliable incentive mechanisms as well as instruments for conflict resolution. Clear and, where possible, uniform monitoring, control and reporting regulations for the various removal methods also promote public acceptance.

CDRterra provides scientific basis for strategy development

CDRterra researchers have been investigating the feasibility and risks of promising CO₂ removal methods on land for almost three years. The research results provide important information on the natural and technical CO₂ removal potential in Germany as well as on foreseeable land use and distribution conflicts and their resolution. They can therefore serve as a scientific basis for the upcoming strategy process.

Press contact:

Karin Adolph
PR-Managerin CDRterra
Telefon: 089 21806594

Click on the green button to download the German policy brief on the national CDR long-term strategy (PDF, 300 kB)