Mineralising carbon dioxide into rock in Iceland

UK invests £30m in projects to remove atmospheric carbon at scale

Image credit: Felicity Aston

The UK will invest £30m in five projects to enable large-scale greenhouse gas removal from the atmosphere to help the UK reach its net zero climate target by 2050.

The five projects will be funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which believes the methods all have the potential to work but their effectiveness, cost and limitations still need to be better understood and proven at scale.

The results will be used to shape longer-term government decision-making on the most effective technologies to help the UK tackle climate change and reduce CO2 emissions.

The 'Greenhouse Gas Removal Demonstrator' projects will investigate:

  1. Management of peatlands to maximise their greenhouse gas removal potential in farmland.
  2. Enhanced rock weathering - crushing silicate rocks and spreading the particles at field trial sites.
  3. Use of biochar, a charcoal-like substance, as a viable method of carbon sequestration.
  4. Large-scale tree planting to assess the most effective species and locations for carbon sequestration at sites across the UK.
  5. Rapid scale-up of perennial bioenergy crops such as grasses (Miscanthus) and short rotation coppice willow.

Carbon capture technologies are thought to be essential for the world to succeed in meeting climate change goals. Last year, the Global CCS Institute said the number of facilities needed to be ramped up, as they are not being built fast enough.

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, executive chair of the Natural Environment Research Council, which is part of UKRI, said: “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a priority for the UK, but it’s clear that alone that will not be enough to reduce CO2 and meet the UK’s net-zero climate target by 2050.

“These projects will investigate how we can actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere using innovative technologies at the scale required to protect our planet. This investment by UKRI is especially significant as the UK prepares to host COP26 in Glasgow later this year.”

Professor Cameron Hepburn, from the University of Oxford, said: “Greenhouse gas removal is essential to achieve net-zero carbon emissions and stabilise the climate. Alongside the need for much faster emissions reductions now, we also need to start pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere.

“Greenhouse gas removal is not only essential, it also has the potential to become big business. As we rebuild societies and economies following Covid-19, we have an opportunity to orient ourselves towards the green jobs and industries of the future. I’m delighted that UKRI is supporting such a strategic programme.”

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