Carbon takeback obligation - can we afford not to act?

Carbon takeback obligation - can we afford not to act?

27 October 2021

On the same day as the UN released its Emissions Gap report ahead of COP 26, a report highlighting the potential importance of Carbon Take Back Obligations (CTBO) as a policy tool was published in Joule.

Matthew Ives and Myles Allen were among the co-authors of 'Upstream decarbonization through a carbon takeback obligation: An affordable backstop climate policy'. They explain that in the absence of immediate, rapid, and unprecedented reduction in global demand for carbon-intensive energy and products, the capture and permanent storage of billions of tons of carbon dioxide annually will be needed before mid-century to meet Paris Agreement goals. Yet the focus on absolute emission reductions and cheaper, more temporary forms of carbon storage means that permanent CO2 disposal remains starved of investment, currently deployed to capture only about 0.1% of global Energy and Industrial Process (EIP) emissions. 

They show that a cost-effective transition can occur by mandating an increasing stored fraction through a progressive carbon takeback obligation (CTBO) on fossil carbon producers and importers. When combined with measures to reduce CO2 production in the near-term, a CTBO could deliver a viable pathway to achieving net-zero emissions consistent with 1.5°C by mid-century.

Responding to the UN's report, Myles Allen, said: “Insanity is keeping doing the same thing in the hope of getting a different outcome. On current progress, we’ll close the 2030 emissions gap sometime in the 2080s."

He added: “We currently dispose of less than 0.1 per cent of the carbon dioxide we generate. This needs to be at 10 per cent by 2030 to be on track for 100 per cent by 2050. This is the gap that matters, and they won’t even be talking about it in Glasgow.”

Photo by Matthias Heyde on Unsplash