10 essential carbon removal reads from 2023

As we close out 2023, it’s clear that the conversation around carbon dioxide removal (CDR) has never been more crucial. This past year, we’ve seen a surge in research, policy developments, and market trends that underscore the importance of CDR in our fight against climate change. The consensus is building: CDR is not just an option, but a necessity. In this post, I’ll summarize ten essential reports and publications from 2023 that have significantly contributed to our understanding of CDR, its potential, and the challenges we must overcome to effectively implement these technologies on a global scale.

1. The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal

Oxford University and other lead institutions, January 2023

This first of a kind report provides a comprehensive global assessment of the CDR landscape. The report emphasizes the massive scale gap of novel (or what some call long-duration) forms of CDR, in addition to rapid emissions reduction, to meet the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.

2. The Time for Carbon Removal Has Come

BCG, September 2023

This report provides a market outlook for long-duration CDR methods up to 2040. Few economic analyses offer market projections specific to long-duration CDR, generally including all forms of CDR. BCG has walked the talk with its commitment to CDR, recently announcing a 15-year carbon removal purchase agreement with Climeworks.

3. Carbon removals: How to scale
a new gigaton industry

McKinsey, December 2023

This report by global consulting firm and Frontier member McKinsey estimates that a gigaton-scale CDR industry could be worth up to $80 billion by 2030 and $1.2 trillion by 2050. It also discusses investment shortfalls, potential cost reductions, and the advantages of being a first-mover in the carbon removal industry.

4. Roads to Removal: Options for Carbon
Dioxide Removal in the United States

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, December 2023

This report breaks down the potential for the US to achieve gigaton-scale CO2 removal. The granularity of this analysis – identifying CDR potential at the county level – is truly impressive.

5. Applied Innovation Roadmap
for Carbon Dioxide Removal

RMI, November 2023

Meeting research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) needs will be critical for scaling CDR. RMI has mapped the gaps in RD&D across various CDR technologies, offering a valuable roadmap for targeted investment and development.

6. Depending on the Ocean: Research and Policy Proposals for Responsible Ocean Carbon Removal

Carbon180, May 2023

Carbon180 provides an analysis of the potential for the ocean to contribute to CDR. The report identifies critical research questions for ocean CDR, recommends policies for addressing key knowledge gaps, emphasizes engagement with coastal communities, and highlights the need for governance mechanisms and field tests.

7. UN Emissions Gap Report

UNEP, November 2023

For the first time, this report includes a dedicated chapter on CDR technologies, reflecting the importance of CDR in achieving climate goals. The chapter underscores the necessity of CDR in balancing out residual emissions, the risk that delaying significant reductions will increase dependence on CDR, and warns that we cannot take for granted the availability of large-scale CDR, necessitating further RD&D in the field.

Progress on a variety of carbon removal methods

8. How to avoid carbon removal
delaying emissions reductions

Carbon Gap, September 2023

This report explores the risk that scaling up CDR may delay necessary emissions reductions and the guardrails and policies that could reduce this risk (known as mitigation deterrence). It suggests solutions such as creating separate CDR targets and allocating responsibility for addressing legacy emissions.

9. Microsoft Carbon Removal:
Observations from our third year

Microsoft, June 2023

Microsoft has made significant strides in CDR purchases on its path to become carbon negative by 2030. Microsoft has set a high bar for transparency and knowledge-sharing with this report – sharing valuable insights and lessons learned from their experience.

10. Ready for Removal: A decisive decade for Canadian leadership in Carbon Dioxide Removal

Carbon Removal Canada, November 2023

I’m a little biased here, but our inaugural report outlines the potential for scaling CDR in Canada. It highlights Canada’s suitability as a global leader in this field, the need for urgent action, and policy recommendations to realize Canada’s CDR potential.


Looking ahead to 2024, it’s crucial that we include even more perspectives to fill CDR knowledge gaps as we strive for a global gigaton-scale carbon removal sector.

By Na’im Merchant

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