Welcome to #TRVSTLOVES. We curate news, ideas, and inspiration from across the world, demonstrating how real action can accomplish a positive social impact. This time we’re looking at carbon emissions and the technologies and approaches available to reduce them.
Did you catch this in the news recently? The UK is to start a world-leading initiative to suck carbon dioxide out of the air. While it may sound a little strange, the concept has been around for many years, and these carbon removal technologies are now becoming more of a reality.
The science behind it includes carbon farms, tree planting, bioenergy crops, rock chips, and charcoal to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Funded by UK Research and Innovation, these initiatives will be explored and tested over the next four years or so to ascertain how effective each approach is.
We’re at a point with climate change where we need to be bold with our ideas, which is why we’re turning to carbon removal technologies. But the danger, or risk, is that people see these headlines and assume that no further action or effort is needed.
Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth and does not solve the root of the problem. No one idea or initiative will be the answer to the climate crisis, and we must continue to push individually and as a collective to reduce our emissions and meet targets.
Staying with the UK for a moment, and linked to the above, the UK Government has announced a £166 million cash injection for green technology, which should generate around 60,000 UK jobs. Technologies will be developed around carbon capture, greenhouse gas removal, and hydrogen.
Large cash injections like this are always welcome, and there will also be encouragement for new and innovative ideas about how we can tackle the problem. Around 24 projects across England and Wales will receive up to £250,000, and five projects will receive up to £4.5 million each to “investigate the viability of adopting greenhouse gas removal methods at scale.”
Cash rewards for innovative competitions aren’t a new concept, but it’s great to see them being offered on this scale for this type of innovation. In fact, just earlier this year, Elon Musk announced he would be “donating $100 million towards a prize for best carbon capture technology”, so we’re hoping these incentives will result in some unprecedented ideas to support the Green Industrial Revolution.
Last month Apple announced its first ever $200 million Restore Fund to accelerate natural solutions to climate change. With a big player like Apple, people tend to pay attention, so we were keen to learn more.
The Restore Fund makes investments in forestry projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere while generating a financial return for investors. The fund aims to help scale up investment in forest restoration. This is an interesting concept because one of the biggest problems with climate change is the close links it has to the economy. Understandably, businesses don’t want to lose money, and it can be challenging for people to make changes when they don’t see an immediate impact or outcome. So where there can be a win-win situation, well, there’s hope for success.
The initiative also helps Apple take steps to become carbon neutral across its entire value chain by 2030; it’s definitely starting to feel like the pressure is on for these big names to show they’re taking action.
We love a Ted Talk at TRVST, and this one is no exception. Carbon capture advisor Bas Sudmeijer is talking about how carbon capture networks could help curb climate change. Sudmeijer covers the importance of being a leader in these challenging times, trying to promote sustainability, achieve net-zero, yet be aware that greenhouse gas emissions are closely linked to local employment, which means there’s no easy solution.
Currently, carbon capture networks remove less than 0.1% of global greenhouse emissions. This is quite surprising, given we’re starting to talk about the concept a whole lot more. The International Energy Agency estimates that we need to be capturing 100-200 times more than this by 2040.
Sudmeijer has an interesting approach to tackle this via carbon networks and infrastructure. He believes the key is to establish what is already available and, most importantly, to work collaboratively to reach goals.
We thought the idea of working together was thought-provoking. It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea, and yet, how many companies are forging new partnerships to meet goals when it comes to carbon emissions? We see a lot of promises being made, but perhaps real change can come from collaborative thinking and approaches.
Many companies are making rather big environmental pledges at the moment, but how much progress are they really making, and are they going to meet their targets?
This look at Microsoft is interesting. Last year they stated that they planned to be carbon negative by 2030. This is certainly an ambitious target and one that will require them to start showing results immediately. Their recently released progress report shows positive change, although whether the impact of the 2020 pandemic has skewed results isn’t clear. There also remains a lack of reliance on technologies that remove carbon, which may have captivating potential.
It’s worth noting that being carbon negative doesn’t mean eliminating carbon emissions entirely, but rather canceling out what is produced. There are questions to ask and challenges to be made around this sort of approach on a wider level. Will there be an actual reduction in the levels of carbon emissions? If not, are we talking real systemic change here, or is it business as usual? The answers to these questions will depend on how much real change that governments, businesses, and individuals are willing to make.