The International Energy Agency (IEA) is stressing the need to scale carbon removal solutions such as direct air capture rapidly by 2030.
Of course, the primary route to reaching net-zero by mid-century is still drastically cutting back on emissions, according to the IEA.
But even so, the road to decarbonization, particularly for hard-to-abate sectors like industry and aviation, is a long and difficult one, meaning that residual emissions will still be part of the picture for years to come.
So with that in mind, the need for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) still remains a pressing matter.
However, technological CDR solutions, such as direct air capture (DAC) are still highly underdeveloped and ‘only at the demonstration or prototype phase’.
According to the IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 (NZE) Scenario, the current capacity to remove CO2 from the air using DAC technology is 0.01 million metric tons per year, which needs to be increased 7,000 times by 2030, bringing that capacity to 70 million tons of CO2 per year.
Then throughout 2050, scaling should continue to reach an estimated total DAC-based carbon removal capacity of 600 million tons of CO2 annually.
Relevant: A New Perspective For Scaling BECCS And DAC – BeZero Carbon
While the need to scale DAC and other CDR solutions is hardly news to anyone, the IEA dives deeper and suggests that carbon markets may have a key role to play in the process.
As one of the primary roadblocks to successfully scaling direct air capture is its very high costs, the IEA says policy complemented by international carbon markets and emission trading systems (ETS) are what it takes to facilitate the scale-up of the nascent technology.
In fact, the voluntary carbon market is currently what is driving the most DAC projects with some of the largest purchases of carbon removals being made by companies like Microsoft, SwissRe, Airbus, Shopify and others.
The IEA argues that if more carbon markets were to integrate carbon removal regulations for DAC and DACS (direct air capture and storage), this may unlock vast scaling possibilities for the sector.