Carbon Removals at COP: Reflections and outcomes from COP27

With dozens of carbon removal events throughout COP27, pathways for removal working in tandem with mitigation and resiliency was on display for the two weeks of COP27 in Sharm El Sheik. By Climate Champions | December 7, 2022

The urgent need for climate action to move forward was paramount throughout COP27, including carbon removal. It is clear that, in addition to ambitious emissions reductions, we will need to be removing CO2 from the atmosphere in order to keep 1.5 alive. Carbon Removals at COP tracked carbon removal announcements throughout the climate conference and pavilion streamed numerous events and hosted daily briefings with leaders and experts within the carbon removals space.

Loss and damage have been at the heart of COP27 discussions and negotiations, with parties making history at the conference by agreeing to a landmark fund to help vulnerable countries with the immediate costs of climate disasters.

Carbon removals can also play an important role in addressing, loss, damage, and repair to help restore the climate. India’s Minister of Power, Raj Kumar Singh has previously called on developed nations to go beyond net zero emissions to net-negative by removing more carbon out of the atmosphere than they emit. Maria Reyes, a youth activist from Fridays for the Future MAPA, highlights the use of carbon removals as a means of climate reparations by directly taking responsibility for and addressing past emissions.

COP27 concluded with parties being invited to submit their views on carbon removals in Article VI of the Paris Agreement ahead of the next conference. With the United Arab Emirates, the next to host COP, signing a multi-billion dollar strategic partnership with the United States to develop clean energy, including provisions for CCUS, carbon removal is likely to be an important focus area for COP28.

The Carbon Removals at COP pavilion provided a platform for a number of diverse voices, from Global South activists, policy makers, entrepreneurs, to tech startups and has amplified their work, their new technological developments and showcased how we can scale-up carbon removal and do it effectively, fairly and equitably.

There were some notable highlights for carbon removal during COP including;

  • The UNFCCC prepared draft text for carbon removal in Article VI of the Paris Agreement and earlier draft text suggested net-negative climate commitments from developed countries – although both proposals have been delayed until COP28.
  • National commitments for cross-border collaboration between countries on carbon removal, including the launch of CDR Launchpad, a coalition of countries who have committed to work collectively to advance carbon dioxide removal projects. Member countries will commit to building a 1000+ tonne a year CDR project by 2025 and will collaborate to share the knowledge and data from these projects.
  • Local government leadership on carbon removal, including legislation in Massachusetts and California in the United States, with both States announcing legislative support for carbon removals in their respective drives towards net-zero.
  • National leadership including, in Luxembourg, where MP Deputy Sven Clement submitted new legislation that committed the small European nation to drive investment and innovation of negative emissions technologies.
  • The elevation of leaders from the Global South committed to carbon removal, such as Duncan Kariuki who is driving direct air capture efforts in Kenya with Octavia Carbon in bid to tackle climate change and the effect of it on his community and generate new jobs.
  • The UN Climate Change High Level Champion for the UK and COP26, Nigel Topping, launched the carbon removals 2030 Breakthrough, which allows us to move from pledges  to implementation , by aligning goals and outlining each actor’s efforts and clarifying what needs to be done to achieve it.

Carbon Removals at COP platform has catalogued all of these events and announcements. This includes Daily Briefings, where we spoke to a number of experts in the field of carbon removals, from Assistant Secretary from US Department of Energy Brad Crabtree, to Chief Harvey McLeod of the Upper Nicola Band from British Colombia, to Rachel Cleetus, the Policy Director of Climate and Energy at the Union of Concerned Scientist to Mike Green, Director of Climate and Energy Policy for American Sustainable Business Network and many more.

Experts in the industry and those behind Carbon Removals at COP are offering the following comments:

Gabrielle Walker, Co-Founder of Rethinking Removals said: “Carbon Removals at COP highlighted the massive collaboration that is needed across the entire climate movement to get carbon removals to scale quickly and with quality. This cannot be a handful of actors working alone, it is a task for everyone who cares about closing the emissions gap and keeping 1.5 alive.”

Kumi Naidoo, former US Secretary-General of Amnesty International and former Executive Director of Greenpeace said: “We don’t have time to choose between stopping emissions and removing CO2 from the air. We need to do both to survive. To be clear, just a decade ago, supporting carbon removal was unthinkable for activists like me. Many, including myself, thought these strategies would be an excuse for the fossil fuel industry to avoid action. Today, while there is a global consensus that we need to get off fossil fuels, we have no time left to wait. Even if we stop all emissions tomorrow, the problem remains. In fact, the choice between reducing emissions or removing carbon dioxide is one we simply do not have. Rather, affected communities demand we do both, urgently, and equitably.”

Ben Rubin, Executive Director, Carbon Business Council said: “Carbon Removal is cemented as a crucial pillar of climate action in the aftermath of COP27, working alongside reducing emissions and adaptation. With increasing conversations about the role of removals on the global stage and dozens of events about the importance of responsibly scaling up carbon removal during COP27, there is significant momentum heading into 2023. Thank you to Carbon Removals at COP, which became a go-to community resource for all the carbon removal announcements and events taking place over these last few weeks. COP27 had several successes but more work remains: there is a need for increased ambition across all pillars of climate action.”

Carbon Dioxide Removals

Carbon removals emerges as a critical discussion point at COP27

COP27 continues for a second week in Sharm El-Sheik, with discussions now moving to loss and damage – in which carbon removals can play a critical role. This pivot has been reflected in the number of events, discussions and policy announcements supporting carbon removals in the last week.