Some Countries Plan To Use Carbon Removals To Retain And Expand Fossil Fuels, New Report Shows

Some Countries Plan To Use Carbon Removals To Retain And Expand Fossil Fuels, New Report Shows - Carbon Herald
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Countries around the world are not developing strategies to compensate for the level of continuing emissions or the so-called residual emissions in their net zero plans, a new report is showing. The report named Residual emissions in long-term national climate strategies show limited climate ambition explores the voluntary long-term strategies of the 195 countries that ratified the Paris Agreement. The report examines just 71 of these plans on how to achieve a low-carbon economy by 2050, as only 72 submitted the voluntary strategies.

According to the findings, the strategies are missing key details like the estimate of residual emissions. Out of the 71 nations explored in order to find the level and distribution of residual emissions, 41 do not include an estimate or include only short-term emissions modeling. For those strategies that do, these emissions are on average 21% of peak emissions. The agriculture sector is also the leading largest contributor to residual emissions. 

“We were surprised at how few countries report these emissions,” said lead author Harry Smith, a doctoral student at the University of East Anglia in England.

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The analysis also shows the ones that do vary. Most wealthy countries that have historically emitted the most emissions, project residuals in the 5% to 15% range in 2050, which means they will stop emissions for most of their economies.

However, other countries like Canada have a high percentage of residuals totaling anywhere from 17 to 44% of the country’s peak emissions which means it plans to continue emitting. Australia’s scenarios also range from 36% to 52%. The reason for that is those countries plan to retain or expand their fossil fuel production and use, counting on carbon removal technologies to achieve net zero or to compensate for the continuing emissions. 

Relevant: New Report Charts A Path For Carbon Removal And Emission Reductions

As the report points out, Canada’s long-term strategy explicitly states that “fossil fuel production and consumption could remain higher” if carbon removals become viable at large scales.

Those plans automatically state that carbon removal efforts that originally aim to offset only historic emissions and those that are truly hard to abate with no other viable options at the moment to decarbonize, will be used by some countries to keep fossil fuels alive and continue emitting pollution.

To mitigate this issue, many experts suggest that countries should have separate targets for reducing emissions and offsetting emissions with carbon removals. Separate targets will deprive countries from the option to use removals for continuing burning fossil fuels. They will also be discouraged to think they can solve the excess emissions problem in the long-run with removals rather than true emissions cuts. 

Relevant: EU Publishes Proposals For 2040 Emission Reduction Targets And Industrial Carbon Management

This way they will be encouraged to truly reduce emissions, especially the ones that could be easily decarbonized, and focus on innovation in these sectors, encouraging them to develop new technologies and new policies designed to cut residual emissions both in the short and long term. 

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