19.06.2020 30.09.2024
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How effective is carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere? Is CDR feasible and wanted by society? A new BMBF funding measure explores terrestrial CDR methods.

How can Germany achieve greenhouse gas neutrality from 2050 onwards? Is CDR feasible and wanted by society? The BMBF funding measure "Methods of Carbon Dioxide Removal" (CDR) does research on political, ecological, technical, and social questions concerning CDR methods.

According to current knowledge, there will be unavoidable emissions in the future, for example from agriculture and industry. The desired greenhouse gas neutrality therefore describes a balance between the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. There is a particular need for research on the extent to which the sinks of greenhouse gases can be actively increased or supplemented by humans. The aim of the CDR funding measure is to improve the knowledge base for research and climate policy decisions by the German government by researching methods for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The Paris Agreement of 2015 set the goal of limiting the increase in global mean temperature to “well below 2 °C” compared to pre-industrial levels and of “pursuing efforts” to limit the temperature increase to even 1.5 °C. As part of the "European Green Deal", in 2019 the European Union (EU) Commission announced the goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. In Germany, the latest amendment to the Federal Government's Climate Protection Act from August 2021 aims to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045.

In climate research, it is considered extremely likely that limiting the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5 °C or 2 °C will require so-called "negative emissions" in addition to the drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Negative emissions stand for the active removal of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide Removal, CDR) from the atmosphere and its long-term storage. A broad spectrum of options ranging from ecosystem-based to technical methods on land and in the ocean are being discussed in research and by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

However, questions about the feasibility and implementation conditions of the technologies and approaches listed under this term have not yet been sufficiently investigated to make valid decisions about investments in the development or regulation of a technology deployment on the basis of the findings. This underlines the importance of the topic CDR in terms of research policy as part of policy-relevant climate research with international scope. For without these "negative emissions" it will probably no longer be possible to achieve complete climate neutrality by the middle of the century.

In order to improve the basis for research and climate policy decisions, CDR methods will be thoroughly investigated with regard to large-scale feasibility as well as interactions with other sustainability goals and complex interactions in the Earth and climate system. In addition, a comparative analysis and an evaluation of the different CDR methods are aimed at. Although the potentials of CDR methods still require more research, it is likely that the realisable quantities will only correspond to a small part of current emissions. Ambitious climate protection through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as adaptation to the expected climate change must therefore remain top priorities.

Terrestrial CDR methods focus on nature-based and technology-oriented solutions for CDR on the one hand, and overarching questions of political and institutional feasibility, social acceptance, and ethics on the other.

The following terrestrial nature-based and technology-based CDR methods are subject of the research projects:

  • Direct-Air-Capture and Carbon Storage (DACCS),
  • biochar and pyrolysis of biomass (biochar),
  • enhanced weathering of rocks,
  • Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS),
  • afforestation/reforestation.

In addition to the research projects, funding is also being provided for an accompanying and synthesis project for the overarching analysis of the findings collected throughout the program. The project will develop solutions for the transfer of knowledge to politics, the public, and science and will constitute the central link to the research mission "Marine Carbon Storage as a Path to Decarbonization" of the German Marine Research Alliance.


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