Working in collaboration with industry, policymakers and the public, to realise and scale greenhouse gas removal technologies in a manner that is socially and environmentally sustainable.
It is widely agreed that protecting life on our planet requires a dramatic reduction in the carbon footprint of individuals, organisations and societies.
Less well known is that most of the scenarios for staying below 1.5oC require the removal of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the atmosphere. Over time, this could restore GHG concentrations to pre-industrial levels, compatible with a stable climate and healthy oceans.
Estimates of the quantity of greenhouse gas removal (GGR) required vary but are nonetheless substantial – modelling by climate scientists estimates 12 GtCO2 per year by 2050 (total CO2 emissions for 2018 estimated at 36GtCO21). This would require an industrial operation 2 to 4 times the size of the current oil and gas industry2.
Nature-based solutions are expected to make a key contribution to these efforts, but in order to reach the scale of GGR required, they will likely need to be supported with a range of engineered approaches. However, these technologies and the support mechanisms to bring them forward are nascent and need to be further developed and demonstrated.
GGR offers an important option for companies and sectors with limited mitigation opportunities. But for the planet to remain habitable, the at-present embryonic GGR sector must rapidly transition, with large-scale cooperation of companies, markets and governance structures taking place, to enable GGR to be practiced on an unprecedented scale. This will breed new economies around regenerative agriculture, carbon negative manufacturing, synthetic fuels and bio-energy systems – to name a few.
There is at present no effective interface between research in the GGR field and industries that need removal solutions to meet their targets, and who are looking to invest. Ensuring GGR solutions are delivered at scale requires interventions to accelerate investment and direct resources where they are needed, as well as to ensure appropriate policy and risk management frameworks are place. A catalyst is needed to grow the required GGR market and implement the enabling policy and investment conditions.
A team of UK based human centred design specialists and innovators have started collaborating to propose the development of the Atmospheric Restoration Accelerator project to offer such a catalytic tool. A unique and critical intervention to avoid planetary warming, the Accelerator would be an internationally-sourced incubator for new technologies to develop through the full cycle – from inception to testing, application and upscaling. It will facilitate accelerated development of safe, viable and scalable GGR, engaging the most promising inventions from across the world, focusing project resources on the best technologies and preparing them for growth investment.
The project has started workshopping with a number of stakeholders and is supported by the Carbon Removal Centre and is also working alongside proposals being developed in the UK’s £31.5 million Strategic Priorities Research Fund Call in that the Accelerator will integrate sharing of best practice with those institutions that are awarded funding in May 20213.
Once the three step design process for the Accelerator has been completed through a `Request for Proposals process’, we will engage teams with the most promising inventions from across the world in an innovation process designed to focus project resources on the best technologies and prepare them for growth investment.
The project also constitutes a market intervention, developing a commercial market for GGR where one does not presently exist. If business-as-usual continues, the relevant technology could take at least 10 years to be market-ready for the private sector to invest. This project will accelerate the urgent establishment and scaling of a GGR industry through the following means:
- Nature Based Solution and Carbon Removal Technology testing and scaling;
- Developing a dedicated market through business and investment assistance to emerging technology start-ups;
- Setting up a global coordination system, through a dedicated body that will manage the application of GGR value chains in different geographical contexts. Working with governments to ensure market incentives, policy formulation, governance, socio-legitimacy and legislation are appropriately applied, in conjunction with testing financing mechanisms and business models;
- Research and training programmes, public education, dialogues and awareness campaigns.
Members of the UK and international GGR community have taken the first tentative steps to develop the vision for an Atmospheric Restoration Accelerator. In its present conceptualisation, it is likely to involve the following design steps and associated provisional target dates:
Step 1 – Challenge Mapping, Q4 2020
Given the complexity of GGR ecosystems, it is vital to include perspectives from key stakeholders from the outset. We will do this in an agile way that leverages expert opinion throughout the process and acts pragmatically to prioritise areas that can rapidly generate interest and funding.
These meetings are in the process of convening stakeholders from the following sectors: Governance, Investors, Regenerative Agriculture & Afforestation, Extraction & Manufacture including the Oil and Gas Sector, Aerospace and GGR Innovators.
Step 2 – Pathway Sessions, Q1 2021
Through a series of 2-3 sprints, the Accelerator and multi-sector stakeholders will prototype potential projects.
Though the precise process will depend on the outcome of Phase 1, we expect an exploration of 8-10 opportunity areas, from which we will identify 2-3 robust project plans.
Step 3 – Tranche 1 Projects, 2021-22
We envisage this would include 2-3 projects with independent funding and project teams.
Whilst these work streams may be largely independent, they will be augmented by knowledge exchange processes to identify links between projects and enable the Accelerator to establish the foundational expertise and operating model for a broader, sector-wide organisational footprint.
By providing an incubator for the critical technology and policy solutions required to get to net-zero and ensuring these receive the resources they need to scale, the Atmospheric Restoration Accelerator will be an essential tool for realising the GGR market.
The Accelerator will convene technicians and innovators, investors and philanthropists, policymakers, and other international actors to make a healthy atmosphere a reality. If you are interested in supporting the process or would like to be a part of this journey, reach out to email@example.com.
- Mac Dowell et al. (2017), The role of CO2 capture and utilization in mitigating climate change, Nature Climate Change, 7, 243-249.