How could greenhouse gas removal help the UK reach net zero?
What is Greenhouse Gas removal?
Greenhouse gas reduction is a contentious topic that is seen as critical to meeting the world’s climate goals.
The IPCC’s climate change scenarios all rely on removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere to meet the most ambitious Paris Agreement warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Examples of these CO2 removal solutions include:
- Direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS)
- Cloud treatment to increase alkalinity
- Afforestation and reforestation
As it stands, most of these solutions such as DACCS are virtually non-existent in the UK. With all of this in mind, the UK has launched a selection of funding schemes and research projects aimed at filling in some of the gaps and assisting in the scaling up of these technologies.
Large scale tree planting and afforestation is currently the most common greenhouse gas removal solution and is vital to reaching net-zero targets. The UK has an annual goal to plant 30,000 hectares of forest each year. However, the push to scale up tree-planting has brought up the contentious issue of ‘land grabbing’ which is causing impacts across society with corporations fighting to buy up land to offset their emissions.
As well as planting new trees and forests, restoring, preserving and managing the UK’s current ecosystems, specifically forests and peatlands, forms a key pillar of the nation’s net-zero strategy. A research team has been brought together aiming to identify the “right tree in the right place” by measuring carbon, modelling CO2 leakage, accounting for biodiversity impacts and integrating stakeholder input. Planting a mix of tree species could also be key to protecting the UK’s natural carbon stores from the impacts of climate change.
Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)
Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) involves farming bioenergy crops which extract CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow and then burning them for energy before finally burying the resulting emissions underground. BECCS is currently not operating at scale in the UK, but it features in the government’s net-zero strategy.
These are just a few of the potential solutions that the UK could use to remove greenhouse gases and help reach the 2050 net-zero target. It is likely more technology and CO2 removal solutions will be discovered to add to the already existing options.