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World leaders recognize carbon management as essential climate tool at COP28 launch of Carbon Management Challenge

December 18, 2023 Work Area: Carbon Capture

As world leaders gathered at COP28 in Dubai, global attention focused on accelerating collective action to combat the worst effects of climate change. As nearly all climate scenarios established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have made clear, rapidly accelerating the deployment of carbon management technologies like carbon capture and storage is essential to mitigating climate change. 

As a milestone of the growing political recognition of the importance of carbon management, on December 5th world leaders gathered to launch the Carbon Management Challenge at COP28. 

The Carbon Management Challenge (CMC) is a joint effort and call to action by countries worldwide to accelerate the deployment of carbon capture, removal, use, and storage technologies.  

As the event moderator, James Mwangi, founder of Climate Action Platform Africa, emphasised, the participants in the CMC recognize that: 

  1. Carbon management, in addition to traditional mitigation efforts, is integral to keeping pathways that limit warming to 1.5° Celsius within reach. 
  1. Carbon Management will need to reach gigaton scale by 2030, which is many orders of magnitude from where we are today. The necessity of this scale up is made abundantly clear by scientific projections for limiting the worst effects of climate change. 
  1. Acting through collaborative efforts such as setting national targets or initiatives and building project demonstration and policy together can help accelerate the deployment of carbon management. 

Here are five things we learned at launch of the Carbon Management Challenge: 

1. Advancing carbon management is of global importance 

The CMC is co-sponsored by Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with another 12 countries plus the European Commission having joined the CMC so far, from six different continents. 

Advancing carbon management solutions as a measure to combat climate change is the primary focus of the CMC. Carbon management technologies which capture, remove, transport, use, and store CO2 can provide a meaningful contribution to climate mitigation. As Fatih Birol, Executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) highlighted: at least 10% of cumulative emission reductions must come from CCS to reach the 1.5° Celsius target, making it a critical technology. Birol’s sentiments were echoed by U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, who emphasized the importance of carbon capture, stating that without sufficient development of carbon capture, reaching net zero by 2050 is simply unattainable. The IPCC latest 6th Assessment Report shows that across around 95 scenarios compatible with 1.5° Celsius of warming (and with limited temperature ‘overshoot’), a median average of 1.1 Gt/year of carbon capture and storage is deployed by 2030. The only one of the IPCC’s ‘Illustrative Mitigation Pathways’ to exclude carbon capture and storage entirely also requires a sharp drop in global energy demand. 

2. International cooperation is essential 

Leaders from CMC countries emphasized the need for international cooperation to achieve the CMC goal of gigaton scale carbon management by 2030. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry and Chinese Special Climate Envoy, Xie Zhenhua Cooperative highlighted their the U.S.-China bilateral agreement, the Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis, which includes provisions for collaboration on carbon management.  

A similar emphasis on collaboration was highlighted by representatives of European countries like Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom, all of whom made crystal clear the necessity of regional cooperation to enhance a market for carbon management in Europe. Fresh from his appearance at the 3rd Annual EU CCUS Forum the previous week, Denmark’s Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, Lars Aagaard, outlined the importance of multilateral initiatives like the ‘Aalborg Declaration’, which was signed at the Forum by energy ministers from Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands.  

3. Emerging economies have a key role to play with carbon management deployment 

CMC member countries Indonesia, Brazil, Kenya, Senegal, and Mozambique all emphasized the importance of deploying carbon management in emerging economies. As IEA Executive Director, Fatih Birol outlined, according to their modeling, upon reaching global net zero emissions, around half of the world’s capture capacity will be located in the emerging and developing countries. Some emerging countries are already advancing carbon management: Brazil’s Secretary for Energy Transition and Planning at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Thiago Barral, pointed out that the Lula Project achieved a record high injection of over 10 million tons of CO2 in 2022, representing 25% of global capacity last year. Furthermore, Brazil plans to reach 80 million tons injected into the subsurface by 2025 and is in the process of developing a legal framework for carbon capture utilization and storage in the country. 

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment also outlined Indonesia’s plans to become a hub for carbon management projects in the Asia Pacific region and intends to harness its potential for geologic storage of CO2 by partnering with industrial emitters in other Asian countries looking to decarbonise their production through various means including carbon capture and storage. 

Representatives from emerging economies, like Senegal, Mozambique, and Kenya, who have yet to deploy carbon management, but intend to do so as part of their clean economic development, also endorsed the objectives of the CMC and outlined the opportunity carbon management can provide in reducing and removing CO2 emissions in their countries. Kenya’s Climate Change Envoy, Ali Mohamed, showcased the potential of the Great Rift Valley for carbon storage, leveraging its basalt rock formations, and stressing the importance of international collaboration and increased investments to make substantial progress in reducing and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

4. Carbon management project demonstration is important to accelerate learning rates 

A key focus of the CMC is a focus on advancing carbon management projects. While the gigaton scale target — a pipeline of projects by 2030 that will manage at least 1.0 Gt CO2 annually — is collective and aspirational, participants are encouraged to outline their plans and progress in building and investing in projects.  

At COP28, participants were keen to outline that carbon management has already been deployed at scale for decades. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, noted that more than one third of commercial scale carbon management projects operating globally are in the United States, with over 5000 miles of CO2 pipeline infrastructure being used. While progress has been made, Kerry outlined that “we absolutely know we still need to do more.” Both Kerry and his counterpart, Chinese Special Climate Envoy, Xie Zhenhua were keen to highlight the commitment of both the United States and China in the Sunnylands Statement “to advance at least 5 large-scale cooperative CCUS projects each by 2030, including from industrial and energy sources. 

Partnerships such as the one formed in the Sunnylands Statement could prove pivotal to accelerate the learning rates needed to bring the costs of carbon management down. As we outlined back in October, going forward, a key focus of the CMC should be on knowledge sharing between CMC participants and their projects. This could prove invaluable, particularly for other participating countries looking to deploy carbon management but that have yet to begin operational projects.   

5. Policies are essential to successful carbon management deployment 

Finally, several participants highlighted an emphasis on developing sufficient policy measures to support carbon management. While the CMC does not require participants to set targets for carbon management deployment, some nations, such as Japan, set a target of up to 140 Mt by 2050 and 6-12 Mt by 2030. A number of participants also highlighted the specific policies being used to advance carbon management. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, highlighted the enhancements to the 45Q tax credit regime in last year’s landmark climate legislation the Inflation Reduction Act, which now provides a tax credit of $85/ton for each captured and stored ton of CO2 from industrial sources and $180/ton direct air capture and storage. As Kerry remarked, these enhancements have resulted in nearly 200 new projects being announced. CATF has analyzed these developments over the past year. 

Some participants briefly outlined their policy tools to develop carbon management through mechanisms like carbon pricing. Chinese Special Climate Envoy, Xie Zhenhua, outlined that China launched its emissions trading system in 2021, with plans to include the industrial sector, and, as Zhenhua remarked, may provide more lasting benefits than tax rebates and subsidies. 

Other participants provided more detailed specifics on their policies to accelerate carbon management, like Sweden which has allocated 36 billion Swedish Krona — equivalent to $3.4 billion USD for the period 2026-2046 to accelerate the deployment of bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) through reverse auctions.  

COP28 cemented global collective action on climate through the UAE Consensus, and the launch of the Carbon Management Challenge signals the recognition that carbon management is an integral component of climate action — requiring collective commitment to scaling up carbon management in our effort to reach ambitious climate targets. The event also showcased a strong commitment to collaborative action and policy development in the pursuit of effective carbon management solutions. The important role of carbon management was further recognized in the final text approved by the Parties, which recognizes the need to accelerate key technologies, including “carbon capture and utilization and storage.”  

Moving ahead, participants are encouraged not only to capitalize on this progress to showcase ambition and symbolic support for carbon management, but also to chart a definitive path for its practical development and implementation in the real world. 

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