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expert reaction to greenhouse gas removal report

A joint report by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society presents an ambitious plan for how the UK can lead the way in deploying greenhouse gas removal (GGR) technologies to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.


Prof John Shepherd FRS, Emeritus Professor in Earth System Science at the University of Southampton, said:

“Prevention is better than cure, so reducing emissions of CO2 is still a better bet than removing it from the air after it has been released. However, CO2 removal technologies are likely to be very useful later this century, to supplement emissions reductions, and compensate for intractable emissions once all other emissions have been eliminated. They will also be essential if we eventually decide that the CO2 level remaining in the atmosphere needs to be reduced too. There are several promising techniques that now need to be further researched and developed, so that they can be deployed when we need them, and there are many opportunities for the UK if we are prepared to invest in them.”


 Prof Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds, said:

“The report nicely summarises current levels of scientific understanding and technological-readiness.  We have known for a long-time that we will need to supplement emission reduction measures with CO2 removal technologies. This report takes it to the next level by making practical recommendations for how we can scale up existing methods and develop new ones. A post-Brexit soil management incentive for farmers would help our agricultural industry, biodiversity, food prices and the climate: what’s not to like?”


Prof Andrew Watson FRS, Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Exeter, said:

“Almost certainly, reducing our emissions will not be sufficient to reach the target for limiting global warming set out in the Paris agreement: in addition, we will need to make extensive use of technologies that actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This authoritative report shows that we have technologies do this effectively, starting now. It lays out in some detail the steps that the UK could take to becoming carbon-neutral with the help of these technologies. Overall then it is a positive message, but the report also makes clear that a really big effort is needed if we are really to make a difference.”


Dr Phil Renforth, Lecturer in Engineering Geology at Cardiff University, said:

“The report is bold in calling for field-scale experimentation of untested technologies, and deployment of others. However, it needs to be bold. It looks increasingly likely that we will need to remove billions of tonnes of CO2 per year from the atmosphere alongside rapid emissions reduction so that later this century we will be taking more CO2 out of the atmosphere than we will be putting in. While all of these technologies have limits, it is encouraging that there remains enormous potential. We desperately need the research described in the report to develop these diverse technologies into workable solutions.”


Declared interests

Prof Shepherd: “I was a member of the study group, and am a member of the Advisory Board for the LC3M programme”

Prof Forster: “I was not involved at any stage and I have no conflict of interest”

Prof Watson: “I was a reviewer of the report. I’m a researcher working on aspects of the global carbon cycle, with funding from the Royal Society and research councils. I don’t have any financial interests relevant to the report.”

No others received.

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