Negative emissions technology will be necessary if the international community is to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change’s goal of keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius, the independent German Institute for International and Security Affairs said in a report Monday. However, most climate policy frameworks, at the international and national level, do not address these sorts of technologies. “If the Paris climate objectives are upheld, climate policy pioneers will soon be facing calls to set emission-reduction targets of much more than 100 percent – a notion that today seems paradoxical, but may soon become reality,” the report says.
Curbing the global temperature spike means releasing only so much more carbon into the atmosphere; this is called the carbon budget. The remaining budget to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees is about 800 gigatons (Gt) of CO2. For a 1.5-degree temperature cap, the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious goal, the budget is only roughly 200 gigatons. “Global emissions budgets for 1.5 °C and 2 °C will be consumed within five to 20 years,” the report says.
What this all boils down to is that the world will almost certainly exceed the carbon budget to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees and will thus need to pull the excess carbon out of the air using negative carbon technologies, requiring emissions reductions of more than 100 percent. Unfortunately, the paper says, “To date, neither the EU nor Germany has declared itself ready to aim for long-term reduction targets of more than 100 percent. And even if they did, it remains unclear whether such a policy would be technologically and economically feasible, and if it would find sufficient socio-political support.”
To make room for negative emissions in climate policy, “Not only would it be necessary to invest substantially in research and development, but also to start a broad political and societal debate, and initiate regulatory considerations,” the paper says.