Who should use NETPs?

Managing expectations for NETP demand: Considerations for allocating carbon dioxide removals

Negative Emissions Technologies and Practices (NETPs) will be essential to remove and store carbon dioxide (CO2) permanently and reach net-zero targets. Some sectors may not be able to completely abate all emissions. NETPs will play a crucial role in counterbalancing these so-called “residual emissions”.  

Many NETPs are emerging technologies with a range of technological readiness, potential physical limitations, adverse impacts, and co-benefits. Hence, there is large uncertainty as to how much of the theoretical potential for each NETP to remove carbon permanently can be achieved in the next 30 years, and still respect physical limits in the natural environment, sustainable resource use and other planetary boundaries, as well as technological and societal constraints to the large-scale deployment of NETPs.  

What is clear is that expectations on how much carbon removal can contribute to achieving net-zero goals needs to be managed. All sectors will need to pursue decarbonisation with maximum effort to minimise their emissions, independent of the rate at which NETP deployment develops. Our analysis of published data indicates that the availability of CDR from NETPs will be insufficient to fully counterbalance even one sector’s level of current emissions, despite rapid scale-up of available technologies. Here we examine the aviation and agriculture sectors as examples for expected CDR demand based on anticipated residual emissions in these sectors. Furthermore, our analysis implies that the supply of removals will certainly be insufficient for the current expected demand.  

This raises the question of how to best allocate the scarce resource that CDR is and will remain for the foreseeable future. This report cannot provide a specific answer to the question of “Who should use NETPs?”, however it aims to highlight a range of questions and considerations that should be used to guide such decisions. Behind this question, there are two central components:  

Firstly, who should be responsible for deploying NETPs? This pertains to the access to limited natural and financial resources needed to remove and store carbon efficiently and permanently using these Negative Emissions Technologies and Practices (NETPs): 

  • Carbon Removal Efficiency: What role should CDR efficiency play in the NETP allocation? Should NETPs be primarily allocated to the countries/regions/ecosystems where they can most effectively, and efficiently remove and store carbon permanently?  
  • Sustainable and efficient natural resource utilisation: Natural resource availability for sustainable biomass production and favourable geological locations make the natural resource use for CDR more efficient in some regions. What role should efficient and sustainable resource allocation play in decisions on NETP deployment? Should this be where sustainable development and planetary boundaries are best respected? 
  • Financial resource availability: To what degree, should the task of NETP deployment lie with those who have the highest ability to finance these? 

Secondly, who should be permitted to use the carbon removed by NETPs to counterbalance their emissions? Some relevant considerations here for making this decision are:  

  • Need: Not all sectors will be as easy to decarbonise, and some residual emissions are likely to remain for a few sectors. Should these “hard-to-abate” sectors have priority or exclusive use of removals?  
  • Moral responsibility: Numerous countries have large historical GHG emissions compared to other countries. Should entities that have historical emissions foot the bill by paying for expensive CDR and take responsibility for their higher overall climate footprint? 
  • Ability to pay: NETPs that remove carbon permanently are often expensive and require new infrastructure to be built. Market-based principles of allocation risk that wealthy sector demand would outprice other sectors that need removals to reach net-zero targets. How should entities with the ability to pay be allocated NETP use, if at all, without compromising other sectors? 
  • Equitably: Should NETPs be managed as a public good which acknowledges the overall societal benefit of reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations?  

NETPs will need financing by either public, private funds, or a mix of both, nevertheless, the societal benefit should be clear. Various financial and regulatory mechanisms and instruments have been suggested as approaches to allocate removals and distribute financial benefits and burdens.  

Read the full report here:

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