How Canadian carbon removal can help create a net-zero future
"Canada is Ready for Removal and a net-zero future" in-front of a blurred mountain landscape

Tackling residual and historical
emissions in the atmosphere

Canada has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. This means that in less than 30 years, Canada needs to remove as many emissions from the atmosphere as it adds.

While the timeline for the challenge is daunting, it is possible if we have multiple complementary strategies working together to help achieve a net-zero future. One of our most essential tools is carbon removal, which means removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it for centuries or longer.

Through our new blog series, Ready for Removal, we’ll explore the role that carbon removal plays in the clean energy transition and delve into why it must be used — in addition to reducing emissions. We’ll dive deeper into carbon removal to understand its importance and future.

The role of carbon removal

Carbon removal is the net in net-zero. As the world works toward a clean energy transition, there is no avoiding hard-to-abate industries (where decreasing emissions significantly is still difficult) like shipping and aviation. Unfortunately, we do not have time to wait until these industries find the technology to eliminate emissions. We must act now.

Since the Industrial Revolution, humanity has emitted an estimated 2.5 trillion tonnes of CO2. The kicker? Carbon dioxide can stay in the air for generations. This has led to a buildup of this heat-trapping greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and worsening climate impacts.

Even if we reach zero emissions in the future, billions of tonnes of CO2 will still need to be removed from the atmosphere to meet global temperature targets. Carbon removal is the only method we have to address historical emissions.

As such, a net-zero future can only be achieved with a two-pronged approach of cutting emissions and carbon removal. Bottom line: We face the simultaneous challenge of reducing the CO2 emissions (and other greenhouse gases) we send into the atmosphere and removing the accumulated CO2 that currently exists.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of the United Nations, has stated the need for carbon removal to help meet global climate goals and defined its role to include:

  1. Lowering near term net CO2 or other greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere.
  2. Compensating for residual emissions.
  3. Achieving net-negative emissions in the longer term.
Why Canada needs to scale up carbon removal solutions

In recent years, Canada has experienced unprecedented wildfires. For example, the emissions from these fires in 2023 were roughly triple those from all other sectors of the economy combined in the same year! If these wildfires continue, the need for carbon removal to counterbalance those emissions could be even greater.

Canada is responsible for an estimated 73 billion tonnes of cumulative historical emissions since the pre-industrial era. Given an estimated total global carbon removal need of hundreds of billions of tonnes of CO2 by 2100, Canada would require an approximate annual carbon removal capacity at the level of hundreds of millions of metric tonnes of CO2 by 2050 to help compensate for residual emissions and begin to address historical emissions.

The need to scale up carbon removal solutions is clear if we want to meet national and global climate goals. With 2050 fast approaching, this means developing carbon removal capacity right away.

Canadian flag waving in the wind
How Canadian policymakers can take action

In addition to the environmental need, developing a carbon removal industry could help Canada become a global climate leader, promote economic competitiveness, unlock new export markets, and create new jobs in urban and rural areas. We need the support of policymakers to promote scale-up and growth for the carbon removal industry.

To take action for Canada, Carbon Removal Canada recommends that policymakers create a concrete goal for building out carbon removal this decade, with a target of 5 MtCO2 of carbon removal capacity being actively developed by 2030.

Based on our research, we hope to see action to support the carbon removal sector in three key areas:

  1. Stimulating market demand.
  2. Accelerating technology supply and advancement.
  3. Enabling rapid and responsible carbon removal project deployment.

Canada has a strong foundation for a carbon removal sector. Still, it will require policymakers to take bold and assertive actions to establish Canada as a world leader in carbon removal.

By Tim Bushman

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