March 4. 2024. 8:30

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Carbon removals are an important tool to reach our climate goals


Carbon capture and storage technologies have often been criticised as an excuse to avoid cutting CO2 emissions at the source. However, they are necessary to meet climate targets and Denmark aspires to be a European leader in this regard, writes Lars Aagaard ahead of a discussion between environment ministers on the subject.

For many years, environmentalists and climate activists have frowned upon technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). It was regarded as an excuse not to carry out the necessary emission reductions.

This is understandable. CCS has previously been seen as a pie in the sky used to deflect from phasing out fossil infrastructure. But excluding these technologies from our toolbox when combatting climate change is no longer a viable way forward.

According to IPCC, it is not enough to reduce CO2 emissions if we are to keep temperature increases below 1.5°C.

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, it is necessary to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. This means that any remaining emissions must be balanced by carbon removal.

In fact, some countries need to take more CO2 out of the atmosphere than they emit. And in the longer term, the whole world will have to go net negative.

To make amends for centuries of emissions, we must embrace new technologies such as CCS. Reluctant acceptance is not enough. And Denmark wants to take the lead.

A few months ago, the new Danish government set the most ambitious Danish climate targets ever. We want to be climate neutral in 2045 and we want to remove more greenhouse gases than we emit.

By 2050 Danish greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 110% compared to 1990.

To reach these targets we need carbon removals. Removals are necessary to reach not only our own goals but also our common goals in the EU.

Carbon removal is an essential component of a strategy to address climate change. With removals, we can address hard-to-decarbonise sectors such as aviation and shipping, and we can reduce the effect of historical emissions.

Denmark welcomes the EU Commission’s proposal on a certification framework for carbon removals that is being discussed at the meeting of the ministers for climate and environment in the EU Council on 16 March.

In previous years, we have seen many dubious schemes that have not delivered the climate benefits they claimed.

It is essential that we establish a trustworthy EU certification framework with high environmental integrity, both for biological removals through land use and forests and technological removals such as CCS.

But the Commission’s proposal on carbon removals is also an important step on the way to creating a market for negative emissions.

Denmark believes that carbon removals and negative emissions should be integrated into the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) in a future revision.

Because to really get an impact, we need to use the strongest instrument at our disposal – the EU’s single market. By using market forces and cooperating across borders we can bring both costs and emissions down while developing a European industry at the forefront of this new technology.

Some may still be sceptic and regard CCS as immature. However, since last week, CO2 storage in Denmark is no longer a plan, but a reality.

Denmark has established project Greensand that demonstrates, for the first time, the feasibility of cross-border, offshore CO2 storage across the full value chain – from capture to transport and storage.

In the next stages of the project, it is estimated that it will be possible to store up to 8 million tons of CO2 per year from 2030. It not only has the potential to store CO2 from Denmark but from other EU countries.

Denmark is ready to put our backyard at Europe’s disposal.