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A pledge with a plan: How the Carbon Management Challenge can accelerate climate action  

October 10, 2023 Work Area: Carbon Capture

As the effects of climate change are becoming ever more evident, the need to cut global greenhouse emissions faster has never been more urgent. That means, among other things, rapidly accelerating the deployment of carbon management technologies like carbon capture and storage — in keeping with nearly all climate scenarios established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

The recent update to the IEA’s Net Zero pathway states that we’ll need “1 Gt of CCUS and CDR will be needed by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C, if we are to reach 6.2 Gt of CCUS and CCS-based CDR in 2050. However, current estimates indicate that only 40 MtCO2 is captured and stored each year. Major efforts are needed from global climate leaders to accelerate carbon capture, use, removal and storage – collectively referred to as carbon management. 

Announced at the Major Economies Forum in April, the Carbon Management Challenge aims to accelerate the scale up of carbon capture, utilization and storage and carbon dioxide removal as necessary complements to aggressive deployment of other zero-carbon technologies and energy efficiency. The CMC is co-sponsored by Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Governments participating in the CMC include Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Egypt, the European Commission, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

With the Carbon Management Challenge, global leaders will have a key opportunity to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture, removal, use, and storage technologies. Here’s 5 things they can do to seize that opportunity: 

1. Set a clear target for global carbon management deployment, in line with net-zero emissions pathways 

Setting a clear target for the deployment of clean energy targets is crucial to catalyzing collective action. Momentum has been building. In September, G20 leaders committed to triple renewable energy capacity and to demonstrate similar ambition with respect to other zero- and low-emission technologies, including abatement and removal technologies, at the New Delhi Declaration.  

Although carbon management is gaining prominence in many developed economies’ climate strategies, the extent and way in which carbon management plays this role is heterogeneous. Some governments, such as the UK, have committed to capture and store 20–30 MtCO2 by 2030, while the European Commission has proposed a target of achieving a CO2 storage capacity of 50 MtCO2 by 2030. The Commission is expected to announce additional targets in its Industrial Carbon Management Strategy later this year. However, most countries do not have deployment targets and many fall below what is needed to avert the worst effects of climate change. 

A collective target to deploy carbon management to the scale needed to meet the climate challenge would mean a target of deploying at least 1 Gt of capacity by 2030, which would align with the IEA’s Pathway to Net Zero by 2050. 

2. Create the conditions to deploy carbon management technologies 

It’s not enough to set a target. Global leaders must show how they plan to meet it. To ensure effective deployment, countries must produce strategies for carbon management in their respective countries or regions that include information such as the status and scale of carbon management projects, supporting policies and regulations, and identified barriers. They should also highlight the incentives, regulations, and resources they will provide to expand CO2 transport and storage infrastructure hubs, measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification.  

To ensure the successful acceleration of carbon management, we need global accountability mechanisms. These mechanisms could include plans for developing and implementing national strategies or roadmaps for carbon management, such as incorporation of targets into domestic climate plans, National Energy Climate Plans (NECPs), Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and other relevant publicly stated decarbonization goals — as well as targets for percentage of total CO2 emissions permanently stored by 2030. 

3. Ensure accountability and accelerate project implementation 

Although we need to deploy carbon management technologies and necessary infrastructure around the world to meet the climate challenge, certain countries need to take action first, becoming ‘first movers’. Knowledge sharing between these participating countries and their projects could prove invaluable, particularly for countries yet to begin operational projects. In addition, given the diverse range of geological and economic conditions in participating countries, accelerating carbon management will mean operationalizing infrastructure to enable CO2 to be captured, transported, and stored across borders. It will take collaboration among participants to remove potential legal or economic barriers and ensure the swift deployment of CO2 infrastructure, which will be essential to ensuring the success of the Carbon Management Challenge. 

Finally, close coordination will be imperative to ensure the development of CO2 transport and storage infrastructure. Much like CO2 emissions, geological storage space is not bound between international borders. Ensuring sufficient transparency, awareness and coordination on the development of CO2 storage projects will be imperative to ensure the efficient use of pore space and the operationalization of gigaton-scale CO2 injection capacity, globally, in the coming decades. Coordinating CO2 transport and storage projects should therefore occur on a regional basis in order to ensure carbon management can effectively contribute to our climate goals. 

4. Establish a global secretariat for carbon management 

To effectively implement the Carbon Management Challenge and fulfill the commitments made by its participants, it’s vital to establish a secretariat or an overseeing body responsible for managing its implementation. This secretariat could be led by a participant government or a collective of participants, with rotating leadership on an annual basis. Alternatively, an international organization or group of organizations could take up this role.  

The primary responsibilities of the secretariat should be to support the rapid development of carbon management strategies in states where they are required, as outlined in section two, and to provide knowledge sharing and guidance to states that have made more progress in deploying carbon management initiatives. 

5. Support carbon management efforts in the Global South 

While major economies like the United States, China, and Europe are leading the deployment of carbon management, it is crucial for developing countries to have access to these technologies as their economies grow. Developed nations need to rapidly and significantly scale up carbon management to achieve cost reductions, making carbon capture more accessible and affordable for countries in the Global South. 

Countries should make clear efforts to involve countries in the Global South, even if they have not yet started deploying carbon management technologies or committing to near-term targets.  

There are several measures which could prove particularly valuable to these countries, such as establishing centers of carbon management excellence to focus on safeguards and specific regional challenges, sharing best practices and information on carbon management deployment, providing technical and administrative assistance, and linking data sharing to public funds. Moreover, enabling the development and financing of projects in the Global South through dedicated funding facilities and multilateral development banks like the Green Climate Fund and World Bank. This support will aid in the wider deployment of carbon management technologies across developing nations.

The Carbon Management Challenge: An opportunity to turn pledges into plans 

With the Carbon Management Challenge, world leaders have a major opportunity to send a clear signal to the world that carbon management is a requirement for climate action and efforts to accelerate its deployment must be stepped up alongside other key technologies needed to reach net-zero emissions globally . The Carbon Management Challenge offers the chance to not only demonstrate ambition and symbolic support for carbon management, but to set a clear course for its development and implementation in the real world. 

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