Panel Discussion Recap

On December 10th 2020, NET-RAPIDO was present at the 12th International Conference on Applied Energy (ICAE). During this day, a panel was hosted to discuss the possibilities around the deployment of negative emissions technologies (NETs), to mitigate carbon emissions from sectors that have proven hardest to decarbonize as the world’s economies seek to transition to net-zero by 2050.

Four panelists were invited to share sectoral experiences and insights, including MSc. Hanna-Mari Ahonen, a Senior Consultant on Climate Policy and Carbon Markets at Perspectives, and a NET-RAPIDO project member.

Speakers:

·      Dr. Fabian Levihn – Head of R&D at Stockholm Exergi

·      Dr. Cody Finke – Co-founder and CEO of Brimstone Energy

·      Prof. Jess F. Adkins – Professor of Geochemistry and Global Environmental Science, Caltech

·      MSc. Hanna-Mari Ahonen – Senior Consultant, Climate Policy and Carbon Markets, Perspectives and NET-RAPIDO project member

Moderator: Neil Fromer – Executive Director for Programs, Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech

Discussion began with agreement around the fact that, despite ongoing international efforts to reduce GHG emissions and to decarbonise energy and industrial technologies, it seems increasingly likely that the world will overshoot the Paris Agreement targets to keep global warming below the 2°C. In such a scenario, NETs will have an important role to play, and while some sectors have already begun to take advantage of their potential, they will need to be rapidly scaled up.

During the first talk, Dr. Fabian Levihn who represents the largest energy utilities company in Stockholm, stressed the role of bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), not only in reducing GHG emissions but also as a market opportunity for offsetting emissions for countries like Sweden, which has one of the most sustainable forests in the world. He also emphasized that the main challenge at the moment is not technology in itself, but a lack of understanding of NETs, and of how to translate what seems to be a fundamental societal demand into a market transaction.

Following, Dr. Cody Finke focused of the role of NETs for reducing industrial process emissions, which are GHG emissions resulting directly from the chemistry use to make certain products, with the biggest categories being aluminium, hydrogen, steel and cement. Industrial process emissions should be a central area of focus as they represent around 35% of total industrial emissions, and would persist even if companies were to use 100% clean energy. However, Finke argued that it is possible to design zero carbon processes by integrating NETs, and showcased their innovative and patented Brimstone Cement Process as an example.

 

 

 

The third speaker, Prof. Jess Adkins, commented on the possibilities of Accelerated weathering of limestone (AWL) to capture and sequester CO2 in the ocean. AWL reactants (e.g. limestone fines) are generally available, inexpensive, and environmentally benign, and they can be used to react with hydrated waste CO2 to produce carbonic acid, neutralising CO2 gases and converting them into dissolved calcium bicarbonate. AWL presents opportunities for sector-coupling across the crushed stone industry, electrical utilities and cement manufacturers, among others. Whilst this process has proven effective, its scalability depends on the feasibility to deploy AWLs far away into the ocean. Therefore, Adkins proposed the use of transoceanic shipping as a cost-effective option for AWL, capitalising on the fact that the shipping industry is already under pressure to reduce 50% GHG emissions by 2050.

 

 

Finally, MSc. Hanna-Mari Ahonen focused on the policy and economic factors of NETs and their finance needs; the next crucial barriers to unlocking the potential of CO2 removal in alignment with the Paris Agreement goals. Specifically, she focused on the governance and investment angles as key gatekeepers for NETs, as well as barriers relating to fear of their potential risks and externalities.

 

 

A recent NET-RAPIDO report “Net-Zero Emissions: The Role of Carbon Dioxide Removal in the Paris Agreement” recommends to incorporate NETs into national long-term strategies. To achieve this, national plans and targets for NETs deployment are needed alongside appropriate regulations and policies, as well as incentives which can be linked to emissions trading markets or carbon tax liabilities. The bottom line is that many NETs are not yet profitable without policy interventions e.g. for the provision of R&D support and subsidies. Additionally, stakeholders at all levels must be engaged in the design of the NETs roadmap.

While there seems to be momentum for this particularly in Nordic and some European countries with initiatives already underway, the broader policy landscape is not yet conductive to scaling up NETs.

 

 

Another key element is the need to create and put in place accounting frameworks to estimate NET’s mitigation impact and contribution towards climate targets. This would not only build up credibility around NETs, mitigation and carbon pricing, but can provide access to results-based incentives e.g. certificate trading.

Strong accounting methods and frameworks are needed to address the permanence of removed emissions and cross-border activities. Also, as NETs potential is unequally distributed globally, they will require close international collaboration in the implementation of both the technologies and accounting frameworks, to enable achievement of net zero emissions worldwide.

 

 

Lastly, Ahonen emphasized that the finance needs will depend on the type of NET to be deployed. Generally, unlocking investment in NETs is crucial as this funding is largely missing currently on a global scale. She also referred back to the challenges stressed by Dr. Levihn on the need to disentangle how to translate emissions reductions demand into actual market transactions.

Summary written by Adriana Chavarria Flores with contribution from Hanna-Mari Ahonen