jeudi Décembre 7, 2023

What Role Does Direct Air Capture (DAC) Play in Achieving Net Zero?

Direct air capture (DAC) is playing an increasingly large role in net zero scenarios. But scalability, cost, technological readiness, and social acceptance are still evolving. In the race to net zero, will DAC be a leading technology or an expensive side quest?

Résumé du webinaire

To avoid catastrophic climate change, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that emission reductions won’t be enough—we must also remove up to 13 gigatons of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere annually by 2050. Enter carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and direct air capture (DAC). Unlike CCS, which captures emissions from point sources of CO2 like smokestacks, DAC works by removing CO2 directly from the atmosphere.

Transition Pathway Principal Dr. David Layzell spoke with experts Donald Addu (Climeworks), Silvan Aeschlimann (Rocky Mountain Institute), and Emily Grubert, (University of Notre Dame), about barriers and benefits to scaling up DAC to reach net-zero goals. Read on for our highlights:

  • DAC is a subset to a carbon removal portfolio—not a replacement for reducing emissions.
    “Direct air capture is going to be part of a solutions portfolio…it’s a complementary tool that can only be successful if we achieve sustained emission reductions,” emphasizes Aeschlimann.
  • DAC projects can be set up anywhere (projects are active in Iceland, Europe, and the U.S., with more projected to open in Canada), with a relatively small footprint.
    “We need very, very little land in order to capture a very large amount of carbon using direct air capture,” explains Addu. “As we see the need for land use to shift and change in the 21st century, I think that low land footprint is really an asset.”
  • DAC enables CO2 to be stored with a high level of certainty and measurability.
    “There’s no ambiguity,” says Climeworks’ Donald Addu. “We know exactly how much CO2 we’re capturing out of the air and how much we’re storing directly underground. That is really where direct air capture shines. »
  • Two of the main concerns with DAC are cost, and its potential to be abused by heavy emitters as a way of avoiding reductions.
    “What concerns me is that it’s just too expensive. Being able to remove CO2 from the atmosphere by DAC could be an excuse for heavy emitters to keep emitting,” says Aeschlimann. “[You need to] make sure that if you scale carbon dioxide removal, you’re also making sure that you don’t deter emissions reductions.”
  • Carbon removal technologies like DAC need to be scaled now.
    “Your net-zero plans should already include investment in carbon dioxide removal now, and not in 2050… We’re in a decisive decade,” says Aeschlimann.
  • DAC is expensive. Who foots the bill?
    “This needs to be a public sector that’s really treated as a waste management industry and funded through property taxes,” says Dr. Emily Grubert. “That’s something that I think we need to acknowledge at this point: most of the carbon dioxide removal activity to date is either purely voluntary or very, very heavily publicly funded; in some cases, both.

Personnes invitées

Dr. David Layzell

Transition Pathway Principal, The Transition Accelerator
David B. Layzell is an Energy Systems Architect with the Transition Accelerator, a Faculty Professor at the University of Calgary, and Director of the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research CESAR Initiative. Between 2008 and 2012, he was Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE), a cross-faculty, graduate research, and training institute at the University of Calgary. Before moving to Calgary, he was a Professor of Biology at Queen’s University cross appointments in Environmental Studies and the School of Public Policy), and Executive Director of BIOCAP Canada, a research foundation focused on biological solutions to climate change. While at Queen’s he cofounded a scientific instrumentation company called Qubit Systems Inc and was elected ‘Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) for his research contributions.

Personnes invitées

Donald Addu

Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships, Climeworks

Donald Addu is a North Carolina native and a graduate of Appalachian State University with a degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration at North Carolina Central University. He has spent over a decade advocating for action on climate change in many different roles, including as the Senior Director of Programs for Citizens Climate Lobby, the Board Chair of CleanAireNC, and as an appointed member of the Durham City/County Environmental Affairs Board. Donald is currently the Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships for Climeworks, a Swiss based company doing direct air capture and storage of CO2, where he supports the carbon removal efforts in the Finance and Asset Management industries. Donald is an accomplished speaker, including guest lectures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC State University, Appalachian State University, and Duke University. Donald lives in Durham with his wife, Katie Rose.


Silvan Aeschlimann

Manager, Carbon Removal, RMI

Silvan is a manager with RMI’s CDR initiative, where he leads their efforts on direct air capture and storage (DAC+S). In his role, he develops science-based roadmaps for the research, development, and deployment of these technologies and helps guide funding towards priority projects. He also supports RMI’s venture accelerator, D3, in advancing the most promising CDR start-ups in the field.


Emily Grubert

Associate Professor of Sustainable Energy Policy, University of Notre Dame

Emily Grubert is a civil engineer and environmental sociologist who studies how we can make better decisions about large infrastructure systems, particularly related to justice-centering decarbonization of the US energy system. Specifically, she studies life cycle socioenvironmental impacts associated with future policy and infrastructure and how community and societal priorities can be better incorporated into multicriteria policy and project decisions. Her major methods include scenario analysis, life cycle assessment, survey and interview research, and text mining.



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