Building capacity for industry to engage with carbon removal via a Carbon Removal Playbook

​Guest post by Francesca Battersby, Foresight Transitions / 30 July 2020

Francesca Battersby is currently working with Foresight Transitions to deliver a Carbon Removal Playbook. She has conducted extensive research into greenhouse gas removal (GGR), from both a natural and social science discipline, and has recently authored the joint piece The UK net-zero target: Insights into procedural justice for greenhouse gas removal.

[The views of guest post authors are their own. C2G does not necessarily endorse the opinions stated in guest posts. We do, however, encourage a constructive conversation involving multiple viewpoints and voices.]

Readers on this platform will be well aware of the facts and figures surrounding the role of carbon removal1 in 1.5°- and 2°C-compatible scenarios as modelled by the IPCC.

If the community is in agreement that a discourse about carbon removal is indeed justified, there is a need to create a more expansive, inclusive, multi-perspective dialogue about the realities, rather than the ideals, for removing carbon. In particular, there is a need to engage the players who are implicitly relied on to finance carbon removal.

There is an understandable urge to demand carbon removal on certain terms. A precedent has been set for failing to build sustainability and equity into climate solutions. However, the academic conversation on carbon removal, and particularly how carbon removal should be governed, is occurring in a separate silo from the industry conversation about how removal technologies will be rolled out, and what stands to be gained.

Without exchanging ideas about, in one direction, the standards that need to be upheld to scale removals quickly, sustainably and equitably, and in the other direction, the barriers to doing so, a lot stands to be lost – in the way of climate change mitigation potential, as well as financial opportunity.

It is in the interests of carbon removal specialists and academics to enter cautiously, but openly, into conversation with the players who are likely to drive both technical and social carbon removal systems forward.​

 

Mapping what we know about Carbon Removal

Undertaking a project to bridge these siloed discourses is a logical next step. Foresight Transitions, Imperial College London and ATKINS, in collaboration with a number of international partners, is therefore working to create a Carbon Removal Playbook for industry.

By industry, we refer to sectors that will struggle to fully decarbonise, and who are therefore likely to have an interest in mobilising resources towards carbon removal development and deployment.

The starting point for this will be to map the mutual knowledge landscape – characterising what industry understands of the academic carbon removal discourse, and what academia understands of the industry one. Where are the overlaps in this knowledge landscape, and where is there misalignment? Are the research and industry communities working well together to support the scale-up required?

Following this, there is a need to establish a shared lexicon for all stakeholders. By developing a Carbon Removal Glossary with input from stakeholders, we hope to minimise language barriers to constructive dialogue, as well as provide a reference point that makes other carbon removal material easier to digest.

Where absolute definitions cannot be offered, identifying known unknowns will provide confidence for players to navigate a highly uncertain space. For example, it ought to be recognised that common terms like ‘hard-to-decarbonise sector’ and ‘residual emissions’ lack definitional clarity, making it difficult to determine who the industry stakeholders in carbon removal actually are.

 

Creating confidence for industry to engage on Carbon Removal

Moving forward, the aim of the Playbook will be to build confidence for industry to engage with ideas about carbon removal – with a view to creating a shared understanding and awareness of the subject between specialists and stakeholders on the ground, in the hope that this will lead to better-aligned priorities.

The Playbook will be developed through a co-creation process, working closely with industry at each stage to iteratively shape the work.

Some key objectives of the Playbook will be to:

  • Provide clarity as to the stakeholders in industry carbon removal,
  • Increase the visibility to the research community of industry’s needs in relation to carbon removal,
  • Illuminate some of the key ideas being explored in academia surrounding the governance of carbon removal,
  • Help industry carbon removal stakeholders to understand the risks and opportunities they face in the net-zero transition,
  • Assess the landscape of current carbon removal knowledge in industry,
  • Build capacity among industry audiences to engage with carbon removal.

As part of the co-creative process for this work, we are seeking input from our target audience to support an assessment of the current carbon removal knowledge landscape within industry. This will signal the kind of questions we need to be asking through the Playbook and the knowledge gaps that need to be resolved. We are interested to hear from an international audience of corporates looking to include carbon removal in their climate strategy.

Responses to the survey linked here will provide essential guidance as to the form and content of the Playbook. We expect it will take 10-15 minutes to complete.

This project provides a timely opportunity to leverage enthusiasm for carbon removal and momentum towards net-zero; engage in pre-COP 26 knowledge-sharing activities; and tap into the inevitable debate surrounding green recovery.

Importantly, the work will act as a runway towards future work in the space, providing a remedy to the identified awareness gap that itself has longevity and sustainability – which are necessary to keep the debate invigorated in line with ambitions to scale carbon removal. 

If you have questions or would like to engage with the development of the Playbook further, please do not hesitate to contact Francesca Battersby at francesca.battersby18@imperial.ac.uk.

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1 NB: C2G uses the term Carbon Dioxide Removal

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