What Happened At The Climeworks Direct Air Capture Summit 2023?

What Happened At The Climeworks Direct Air Capture Summit 2023? - Carbon Herald
Credit: Climeworks

The 2023 edition of the Climeworks Direct Air Capture Summit focused on the challenges of the DAC technology and what can be done to overcome them. 

This year, the Climeworks Summit 2023 attracted an even larger and more diverse crowd of experts, companies and policymakers, both as speakers and guests. 

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First to take the floor was Howard Herzog, a Senior Research Engineer in the MIT Energy Initiative, who thoroughly described the many different carbon dioxide removal (CDR) options available to us at the moment, along with the many obstacles they face. 

Credit: Climeworks

Herzog named some of the main CO2 pollutants, such as aviation and agriculture, and also went on to suggest possible solutions and scenarios in which CDR can reach gigaton scale to help bring about meaningful change. 

But one of the main takeaways from Herzog’s speech was that emissions avoidance and emissions reduction are still among the best ways to do away with excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

Next, representatives of Cipher, Carbon Direct and Carbon180 addressed the importance of developing high-quality standards for CDR, with an emphasis on the fact that all of the existing solutions are valuable and all must be scaled in order to mitigate the climate crisis. 

Credit: Climeworks

Ocean CDR in particular was among the methods needing especially robust standardization due to the high risks associated with this approach. Another solution that would help scale DAC and other carbon removal approaches included buyers of scale, namely governments. 

One of the panel speakers Rich Lesser, Global Char of BCG highlighted the need for all companies of every industry to introduce carbon removals to their net zero strategies as reductions are not sufficient enough for the world to achieve the 1.5°C limit of global warming. 

He also presented some key conclusions from BCG’s analysis published recently “Shifting the Direct Air Capture Paradigm”. Mr Lesser’s presentation showed that current policy support is driving direct air capture cost per ton of CO2 in the $300 – $400 range and it’s unlikely they will push it lower than that level. For DAC to reach prices below $100, the pace of scaling needs to reach 2 – 3 GT per year. 

Industry learning is also critical and should be shared, as opposed to individual companies’ learning.  

Credit: Climeworks

A representative from another corporate leader in climate action – JPMorgan Chase & Co also took the stage. Brian DiMarino, Managing Director, Head of Operational Sustainability walked us through the challenges of JPMorgan’s journey towards purchasing their carbon removal credits. He offered his philosophical approach of navigating in the carbon market which includes looking beyond the obstacles, easily visible, taking bold urgent actions, talking loudly about them and serving as an educator. 

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“Some people know nothing and some people know everything, and when you’re on the everything side, do everything you can to bring people across that traverse. Help them understand what this space is and why it is important… Collective action is how we will solve climate change,” said Mr. DiMarino. 

JP Morgan announced on May 23rd 2023, a commitment of $200 million of CDR offtake which is about 800,000 tons of carbon removal for the next nine years. 

Credit: Climeworks

Another interesting discussion that was led at Climeworks Summit 2023 was around policy frameworks for scaling CDR. One of the speakers at the panel, Noah Deich from FECM at the Department of Energy, stressed the importance for the industry to build more and more projects to keep the policy momentum in the US going. “Still too conceptual today, I love the models at the back but we need actual projects at that scale to show the world what they look like,” he said.

Eve Tamme, an expert in EU climate policy and a founder of Climate Principles – a climate policy advisory, explained the foundational principles of the EU Carbon Removal Certification Framework – the first EU-wide legislation for carbon removal that is still a proposal, will be discussed over the next year and will hopefully be adopted around Q1 2024. The framework will essentially serve as a quantification tool to the voluntary carbon market to ensure the quality of carbon removals.

Social entrepreneur James Mwangi, Co-founder of Africa Climate Ventures, presented extensively Kenya’s potential of being an ideal location for direct air capture projects development. Kenya is one of the countries offering the most abundant geothermal energy with currently installed capacity of 900MW. 

Credit: Climeworks

The untapped geothermal power capacity in the country equals 10GW which is more than enough to provide the much needed renewable energy to power the growing direct air capture industry. Mr Mwangi also highlighted that the Kenyan government realizes that the country is uniquely positioned to be a center in climate smart 21st century development. 

It’s climate and business strategy is also founded on turning around the narrative and notion of Africa as a climate victim to a key in achieving a climate positive future for the planet. 

A pre-recorded video speech of Bill Gates, Founder of Breakthrough Energy, was also showed at the end of the Climeworks Summit 2023. Gates stated that direct air capture is the gold standard for carbon removal, saying he has worked with the company for several years and is grateful for Climeworks bringing together many innovative companies in the sector to develop the industry’s future. 

Credit: Climeworks

He expressed his enthusiasm in seeing how fast the sector is growing now beyond what he expected just a few years ago. “Every day, the team at Breakthrough Energy and I are learning from innovators about their solutions which eliminate emissions in every sector… We need carbon removal to be done in a way that is monitored, reported and verifiable. I’m optimistic we will get there,” said Bill Gates. 

Climeworks is an industry leader in direct air capture development and carbon removal. Providing a platform where the industry’s players and world leaders are coming together to discuss challenges and opportunities and provide a direction forward is inspiring further climate action, more determination and tenacity to spir policy and investment momentum.

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