Community engagement is at the heart of the Biden Administration’s plans for four new regional hubs across America that will prioritise carbon dioxide removal (CDR).
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently said developing carbon capture technologies at the gigaton scale will be vital to the success of the transition to net-zero – and to prevent runaway climate change.
To move from the current 40 gigatons of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere to a net-zero future will require the removal of CO2 already in the air. And the new direct air capture (DAC) hubs are expected to be a step along the road to developing solutions that can do this at the gigaton-scale by the middle of the century.
The first four hubs will each have to demonstrate the capacity to ‘capture and then permanently store at least one million metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually’. They will also be founded on principles of justice and fair opportunity for the communities that live alongside them.
“The UN’s latest climate report made clear that removing carbon pollution from the air through direct air capture and safely storing it is an essential weapon in our fight against the climate crisis,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “President Biden’s is funding new technologies that will not only make our carbon-free future a reality but will help position the U.S. as a net-zero leader while creating good-paying jobs for a transitioning clean energy workforce.”
For Carbon180, an NGO on a mission to deliver a ‘carbon-removing world’, the DAC hubs offer a big opportunity.
“The DAC Hubs program is a huge opportunity for technological carbon removal in the US — but this is just the beginning of the march toward gigaton scale,” the NGO says.
In a recent webinar on the subject, Rory Jacobson and Ugbaad Kosar, deputy directors of policy at Carbon180, spoke about how this can be done most effectively.
Kosar highlighted the need for communities to be given detail “on exactly what project benefits in their region would look like” – as part of a wider “collaborative decision-making around hub implementation”.
While Jacobson pointed to a Rhodium Group report that estimates DAC hubs can each generate up to 3,500 jobs ‘across the supply chain’.
“We want to make sure that this is a really inclusive and just and equitable workforce,” he said. “That these jobs are safe, that they are located in communities that want to host them, and that they pay prevailing wages.”
Earlier this year Carbon180 published some examples depicting ways DAC could be integrated into local communities – check them out.
$100M XPRIZE for Carbon Removal
To accelerate towards carbon removal innovations at the gigaton-scale the largest incentive prize in history, funded by Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation, will run until 2025. The $100M XPRIZE Carbon Removal ‘invites innovators and teams from anywhere on the planet to create and demonstrate solutions that can pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans, and sequester it durably and sustainably’.
“The climate math is becoming clear that we will need gigaton-scale carbon removal in the coming decades to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” the XPRIZE website says. “The IPCC estimates the need at approximately 10 gigatonnes of net CO2 removal per year by the year 2050 in order to keep global temperature rise under 1.5 or 2C.”
To win the top prize teams must demonstrate a working solution that can remove at least 1000 tonnes per year, and ‘model their costs at a scale of 1 million tonnes per year; and show a pathway to achieving a scale of gigatonnes per year in future’.
The Prize recently awarded $1M each to 15 milestone award winners. Watch the video to learn more about them.
This $100M XPRIZE for Carbon Removal is open for application through Earth Day (22 April) 2025.