The carbon dioxide removal industry is experiencing a surge in investment as we strive to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. With developments like direct air capture (DAC) plants and also regional direct air capture hubs, it’s evident that CDR is on its way to becoming a mainstream response to carbon emissions. However, to ensure the industry’s credibility and effectiveness, there is an urgent need for robust monitoring, reporting, and verification mechanisms.
The Hidden Heroes: Regulation in the carbon dioxide removal (CDR) industry.
Attention often falls on high-profile carbon removal technologies like DAC. However, the real backbone of the carbon dioxide removal industry lies in regulation. This strives to ensuring that the promised net carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere is achieved and stored elsewhere. This is crucial for building trust, scaling the industry, and avoiding past scandals that have plagued carbon offset markets.
Removals over Offsets
Unlike carbon offsets, which rely on potentially counterfactual assumptions, many carbon removal methods remove CO2 that would have otherwise remained in the atmosphere. This offers a more straightforward and reliable basis, making it easier to measure the effectiveness of removal technologies.
Validation Challenges in the CDR Industry
While some removal methods like DAC have relatively straightforward reporting and monitoring processes, open-system methods operating in vast, uncontrolled environments present more challenges. Ocean-alkalinity enhancement and biomass sinking must account for the complexities of large-scale CO2 removal over extended periods.
The Need for Increased Research and Funding
The CDR industry requires significant investment in research to address reporting and monitoring uncertainties and answer critical scientific questions related to carbon removal longevity and efficiency. The US government and various non-profit organizations have already taken steps in this direction. Including awarding funding for monitoring, reporting and validation advancements.
Establishing Reporting and Validation Standards
Developing reporting and validation standards may require new approaches, as some certifiers might not be accustomed to the rigor required in the carbon removal industry. Consistency is crucial, and the industry must agree on the scope, including whether it should encompass environmental harms beyond carbon uptake.
The Urgent Need for Regulation – Carbon Dioxide Removal
Moreover, the entire CDR industry acknowledges the necessity for regulation. Unlike other markets, the industry cannot self-regulate, making external oversight essential. A robust, regulated monitoring, reporting and validation framework is essential to attract potential buyers and private sector capital.
Avoiding Cheating and Perverse Incentives
To prevent potential cheating and ensure objectivity, vertical integration in monitoring, reporting and validation should be also minimised. It’s proposed that governmental bodies should set a consistent framework, while third-party nonprofits can verify company monitoring and reporting.
Conclusion – Carbon Dioxide Removal
The next few years are crucial for the CDR industry, and the role of monitoring, reporting and validation cannot be overstated. For the carbon removal sector to thrive, we must establish strong and moreover transparent processes. With proper regulation, standardisation, and investment in research, we can build trust in the CDR industry and move closer to achieving a sustainable, carbon-neutral future.