High carbon price should be set to minimise use of capture options, study finds

Researchers have called for a dynamic, long-term carbon price system in order to help reduce the demand for CO2 removal technologies and limit the impact of climate change.

The team from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Germany, found that while carbon capture and storage technologies will be an essential part of mitigating climate change, excessive deployment would carry risks in itself such as land conflicts or enhanced water scarcity due to a high demand for bioenergy crops.

Instead, they propose setting a high price for CO2 emissions from the outset that will encourage firms to reduce emissions and to achieve emissions neutrality relatively quickly.

Lead author of the study Jessica Strefler said: “Once we have achieved this, the price curve should flatten to avoid excessive CO2 removal.

“It can be a real win-win: Such a price path reduces both the risks associated with increasing reliance on CO2 removals and the economic risks of very high CO2 prices in the second half of the century.”

Current carbon removal technologies, including reforestation, direct air capture or bioenergy, would still be necessary under this scenario to compensate for the remaining few per cent of emissions that has no technological path to carbon neutrality, such as long-range flights.

Large-scale deployment of these would only be necessary if emissions were reduced too little or too late, the researchers said, such that net-negative emissions would become necessary to reduce global mean temperature again after the target has been reached. Both effects could be avoided with a high enough carbon price early on.

“Carbon pricing is key to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions - there is frankly no other way to reach that target,” said co-author Ottmar Edenhofer.

“After a high start and a rather steep increase, the price curve should flatten once emission neutrality is achieved, but it needs to remain on a high level if we want to maintain both a fossil-free world and a reasonable amount of carbon dioxide removal.

“Our calculations in fact show that we need a substantial pricing of CO2 emissions throughout the 21st century, with beneficial effects for both the economy and the people.”

Last month, Canada-based direct air capture company Carbon Engineering sold its first major contract to e-commerce firm Shopify as it looks to mitigate its carbon emissions.

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