The Importance of carbon removal on the journey to net zero

 

Slashing emissions is no longer enough to avert the climate crisis. Here, we speak with Puro.earth about COP26 and why it’s time for companies to add carbon removal to their net zero action plan.

COP26 kicked off in Glasgow last week, and the world is eager to learn where governments stand with their CO2 reduction targets and to gain more clarity on what we all need to do to move forward. So far, the world is not on track when it comes to meeting the Paris Agreement goals. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions to the required levels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change demands unprecedented cooperation and effort on a global scale.

At Haglöfs, we’ve committed to reducing our own emissions by 50% over the next 10 years and reaching net zero by 2030. And because making these reductions takes time, we’re compensating for our full manufacturing and operational footprint with high quality offsets to take responsibility for our impact along the way. Most offsets available today support projects that avoid potential future emissions; however, these are not enough to bring emissions to net zero. That’s why we are also investing in offsets that remove carbon from the atmosphere and will continue to increase the quantity of these to reach our goal.

To learn more about the importance of carbon removal on the journey to net zero and to discuss hopeful COP26 outcomes, our Head of Sustainability Elaine Gardiner got in touch with Elba Horta from Puro.earth— the world’s first B2B marketplace, standard and registry focused solely on carbon removals. Here is their conversation.

Past the point of no return— why carbon removal is a non-negotiable part of the solution

Elaine: Why is carbon removal so important in the transition to a decarbonized future?

Elba: We’ve gone past the point where we can only rely on emission reductions. To keep warming within 1.5oC we need to get to zero emissions overall and that is going to mean removing carbon from the atmosphere. We need to go from emitting industries to industries that are carbon negative. This can create green jobs, many of which are in rural areas where they are very much needed. So carbon removal actually has both socioeconomic and climate benefits.

Elaine: What is carbon removal, and how is it different from carbon avoidance offsets?

Elba: The majority of offsets on the market today involve supporting projects that avoid future emissions. For example, a renewable energy project that generates electricity from sun or wind instead of coal. It is, of course, important to ensure that these types of projects are financed. However, the overall quantity of emissions going into the atmosphere from the company buying the offset is not reduced.

Carbon removal, on the other hand, involves a process where CO2 is physically captured from the atmosphere, stabilized, and then put into durable storage. By doing this, it is possible to reduce or even reach an overall zero balance of emissions (net zero). There are fewer carbon removal type offsets available on the market today, the most common being the planting of trees. Planting trees has many benefits for the climate and beyond. However, there is always a risk of reversal in the event of a fire, for example. There are also other, more technological, solutions which have the potential to remove carbon on a more permanent basis, and at Puro.earth we are focusing on these.

Elaine: And this is where your work at Puro.earth comes in. Can you explain a little more about what you do and why?

Elba: We help corporations neutralize their emissions—and meet their climate targets or net zero goals—by removing them from the atmosphere.

We do this by creating methodologies that robustly measure how much carbon is removed from the atmosphere with these technological methods. We then verify the ability of different projects to remove carbon and provide a marketplace where verified carbon removal suppliers can meet and sell their CO2 Removal Certificates (CORCs) to companies that have climate targets and want to be responsible by removing their emissions.

We do this because there is too much CO2 in the atmosphere and, although methods already exist for removing it, there is a lack of access between supply and demand.

Elaine: At Haglöfs we have purchased biochar CORCs. Can you explain what biochar is and why it is a good carbon removal option?

Elba: Biochar is the result of taking biomass—which, during its life, has removed carbon from the atmosphere—and heating it at very high temperatures without oxygen in a process called pyrolysis. This stabilizes the carbon, leaving it in the form of black pellets. Biochar is very interesting because, even though it can be up to 95% carbon, it’s a very porous material. It can be used in agriculture or horticulture as a soil enhancement because it retains water and organisms can grow in it. It can also be used in filtering applications, to filter wastewater for example. So, it has multiple co-benefits. Importantly, it is a very stable form of carbon that can endure in soil for thousands of years—almost permanently locking in the carbon from the original biomass.

The biochar Haglöfs purchased comes from one of our certified sustainable suppliers in Sweden that takes thinnings or other waste residues from the forestry industry and converts them into biochar.

Elaine: What are some other examples of carbon removal methods you’re working with?

Elba: Other methods include locking carbon into wooden building elements. In the EU, buildings have to last at least 50 years by law, and can usually last up to 100 years, so we know the storage can last for many decades. Carbonated building materials are another option where CO2 is permanently mineralized into the material as an alternative to traditional concrete. There’s also geologically stored carbon where CO2 is removed from the air and injected deep into geological formations underground. And we are always on the lookout for the next innovations in carbon removal methods.

Bumps and barriers on the way to net zero

Elaine: This all sounds great. So why aren’t more companies investing in these types of carbon removal?

Elba: The major challenges include a lack of removal projects on the market and the high price per tonne. And the reason for this is that there aren’t enough investments being made into the infrastructure that’s needed. This means that the suppliers of carbon removal aren’t getting enough capital or finance from the banks. Where money goes, change flows. This is one of the things we are trying to remedy at Puro.earth.

For example, we just launched an initiative called the Pre-CORC Framework with the purpose of matching very early-stage projects, which don’t have enough funding, with corporations who make a commitment to buy their future CORCs. This gives them something they can bring to investors, VCs or banks, and say, “Someone will buy our carbon removals in the future so please give us money to start operations.” So, this will help the market grow as more companies can get started or expand.

Elaine: What about governments, are they giving these suppliers any support?

Elba: In the last year, we’ve seen more announcements from governments about putting more money into carbon removal because I think, finally, they are understanding this is an industry that will have both economic and climate benefits and needs governmental support. It cannot just all be done from the bottom up.

Why COP26 is so important

Elaine: With COP26 in session, I imagine Puro.earth is very busy. What is the significance of this conference when it comes to the carbon removal market, and why are you so interested?

Elba: COP26 will definitely be an eye-opener for many people. It’s putting the climate crisis out in front of the public, so it’s a very important event. Really high ambitions need to come out of this COP26 because we are not on track towards our Paris Agreement goals. And when it comes to the carbon removal market, what we will see is that it will bring these challenges to the forefront—including the problem of lack of availability. This is why we have launched the Pre-CORC framework just before COP26, to bring a solution.

I’m hoping that, after COP26, there will be more companies that want to do something about these challenges. Because there are simply not enough removals for all those companies who are pledging Net Zero. They need to start investing and making commitments for future carbon removals so the industry can grow.

Elaine: At Haglöfs, we are hoping to see greater ambitions in terms of country level commitments as well as policies that support the transition to a lower carbon future such as coal phase out and carbon pricing. In your ideal scenario, what are one or two major announcements you would like to see come out of COP26?

Elba: At Puro.earth, we’re hoping for positive announcements about finance. About where the money will be mobilized to. There needs to be recognition of the scale of the carbon removal efforts needed to reach net zero and the size of the investment needed to achieve that. I’m eager to see the collaborations and alliances that will work on growing the carbon market, especially through supporting new carbon removal suppliers so they can enter the carbon removal market.

What can we do to accelerate progress now?

Elaine: What are your recommendations for companies who want to get more involved in the carbon market?

Elba: What’s most important are the reductions— giving real attention to first reducing as much of your own emissions as possible, and then removing the rest. You can then build a portfolio of carbon removal projects with the aim of growing it over time until you reach a level that matches your own emissions, getting you to net zero. Then tell your peers, tell your customers, and get them inspired. As the industry sees more role models, there’s going to be more action— so use that power you have.

Elaine: What about individuals, can they help in any way?

Elba: While our main focus is on businesses and corporations, we do understand that, for example, as a citizen you can demand more climate action from your government, and as an employee, you have a lot of power to demand from your employer that the company takes action to become more sustainable. And as a consumer, of course, you have purchasing power. So individuals can support the companies that are leading the way with ambitious carbon reduction and removal programs such as Haglöfs, while also considering their own buying behavior—buy fewer, higher quality products and try rental or second hand as other options.

 

To learn more about Puro.earth and their carbon removal marketplace, visit https://puro.earth. Read more about Haglöfs’ climate commitment here.

 

About Elba Horta

As the Head of Communications at Puro.earth, Elba Horta is on a mission to spread the word about the importance of carbon removal to avert the climate crisis and help companies reach net zero. She discovered Puro.earth two years ago and joined shortly after, excited to utilize her background in geosciences, tech, and marketing to do a job with purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

About Elaine Gardiner

Elaine Gardiner joined Haglöfs as the Head of Sustainability in 2019. Originally from Glasgow, Elaine has a background in engineering, environmental science and corporate responsibility which she uses to spread knowledge about sustainability, drive company change journeys, and help create a better future for our planet.