Growing the carbon dioxide removal market

Lowercarbon Capital’s Ryan Orbuch on avoiding the carbon-removal pitfalls of the past.

On the Catalyst with Shayle Kann podcast this week:

Carbon dioxide removal is having a moment. The most recent report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that the world cannot meet the targets of the Paris Agreement without removing hundreds of gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere.

Big companies such as Alphabet, Stripe and others have formed the Frontier Fund, a nearly $1 billion joint effort to jump-start the market to purchase carbon dioxide removal (CDR) offsets. Elon Musk is even sponsoring a $100 million X Prize focused on it.

We’re not talking about point-source carbon capture and storage, often called CCS. And we’re not just talking about direct air capture or planting trees, the most well-known forms of CDR. Carbon dioxide removal also includes technologies involving kelp, bamboo, cement, mangroves, biochar and other materials. 

In this episode, Shayle explores CDR with Ryan Orbuch, a partner at Lowercarbon Capital who leads the firm’s carbon-removal work. Ryan helped to start Stripe’s carbon-removal procurement program and has been involved in Stripe’s nearly $1 billion Frontier Fund. 

Shayle and Ryan cover key questions around CDR, including:

  • What are the key characteristics of an effective carbon-removal technology? What roles do permanence and additionality play?
  • Will investments in removal come at the expense of reducing emissions?
  • Will CDR become a commodity market?

Shayle also shares his experience with the first wave of carbon offsets and surveys the challenges that undermined those efforts. Ryan talks about separating out the cost of measurement and verification from the costs of removal, as well as why we should be thinking about radiative forcing more holistically, not just carbon removal alone.

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