Negative emissions

Negative emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) are high on the wish list of many. In short it is about taking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and getting rid of them, most often by burying them in the ground. The benefit would be the possibility to keep emitting climate hurting gases in other sectors, or just longer.

Chi Onwurah, Member of Parliament in Great Britain, and Mike Childs,  Friends of the Earth, at Manipulating the Planet: Is there a role for Negative Emissions Technologies in tackling climate change? Photo: Policy Exchange (CC BY 2.0)
Chi Onwurah, Member of Parliament in Great Britain, and Mike Childs, Friends of the Earth, at the event Manipulating the Planet: Is there a role for Negative Emissions Technologies in tackling climate change? Photo: Policy Exchange (CC BY 2.0)

The most commonly discussed method to achieve negative emissions is a special version of “Carbon Capture and Storage” (CCS), where bioenergy is the key component – Bio Energy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

BECCS works like this: Carbon from the burning of biofuel is captured and stored for a very long time, which is reducing carbon in the natural cycle. This can be called negative emissions. For every unit of biofuel burned, CO2 is actually removed from the atmosphere. But does it work? Theoretically, yes, and even in pilot schemes. Large scale? Unknown.

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