Major climate change initiatives are planned to roll over the UK to cut climate-warming emissions. The government is funding $30 million in projects using natural carbon capture methods like trees, peat, rock chips, and charcoal to sequester large amounts of CO2.
Trials will be tested across the country to examine the CO2 removal potential of natural carbon sinks. The land that will be used for the trials comes to around 100 hectares (247 acres) which makes it one of the biggest projects in the world removing CO2 from air.
“This is seriously exciting and pretty much world-leading,” said Prof Cameron Hepburn, leading the coordination of the trials. “Nobody really wants to be in the situation of having to suck so much CO2 from the atmosphere. But that’s where we are – we’ve delayed [climate action] for too long,” he added.
Carbon Capture Methods Examined
Peatlands restoration is projected to be carried on in the Pennines and West Wales regions as part of the carbon capture methods testing. They will aim to reverse the damages caused to peatlands by blocking drainage, planting sphagnum moss, and raising water levels.
Peatlands are an essential carbon sink as they absorb 10 tons of CO2 per hectare per year. When renewed, they will also help wildlife, flood prevention and water quality.
Rock chips that take out CO2 will be tested on farms in Devon, Hertfordshire and mid-Wales. When the rock breaks down into the soil, a chemical reaction locks CO2 into carbonate minerals within months.
The rock chips can also help reverse acidification in soils, replenish essential plant nutrients and thus increase agricultural productivity. It is estimated that up to 13 tons of CO2 per hectare could be sequestered each year.
Biochar which is special charcoal will be buried at a sewage disposal site, on former mine sites and railway embankments. The trial plans to spread 200 tons of the material to 12 hectares (29.7 acres) of arable fields and grasslands. It enhances the ability of soil to hold water and nutrients and can help prevent the run-off of fertilizers and pesticides.
The trials will also examine how best to use trees across the country to capture carbon. The carbon capture and sequestration potential of energy crops such as willow and miscanthus grass will be looked at for the first time a commercial scale. These crops are also projected to be burned for energy, with the CO2 emissions captured and stored permanently underground.
The trials’ initiative also comes as a response to the UK’s need to remove around 100 million tons of CO2 a year by 2050 to reach its net zero goal. Scientists have also concluded that billions of tons of emissions will need to be sequestered to keep up to the target of up to 1.5 C rise of global temperatures. The new trials are part of a $155 million government program that also looks into technology to capture CO2 directly from the air.