GGR Directorate CO2RE Hub

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Smith School of Enterprise and the Env

Abstract

Observed, Strategic, sustained action is now needed to avoid further negative consequences of climate change and to build a greener, cleaner and fairer future. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the rise in global temperature is largely driven by total carbon dioxide emissions over time. In order to avoid further global warming, international Governments agreed to work towards a balance between emissions and greenhouse gas removal (GGR), known 'net zero', in the Paris Agreement. In June 2019 the UK committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, making it the first G7 country to legislate such a target.

Transitioning to net zero means that we will have to remove as many emissions as we produce. Much of the focus of climate action to date has been on reducing emissions, for example through renewable power and electric vehicles. However, pathways to net zero require not just cutting fossil fuel emissions but also turning the land into a net carbon sink and scaling up new technologies to remove and store greenhouse gases. This will require new legislation to pave the way for investment in new infrastructure and businesses expected to be worth billions of pounds a year within 30 years.

This challenge has far-reaching implications for technology, business models, social practices and policy. GGR has been much less studied, developed and incentivised than actions to cut emissions. The proposed CO2RE Hub brings together leading UK academics with a wide range of expertise to co-ordinate a suite of GGR demonstration projects to accelerate progress in this area. In particular the Hub will study how we can (1) reduce technology costs so that GGR becomes economically viable; (2) ensure industry adopts the concept of net zero in a way that will maintain and create jobs; (3) put in place sensible policy incentives; (4) make sure there is social license for GGR (unlike fracking or nuclear); (5) set up regulatory oversight of environmental sustainability and risks of GGR; (6) understand what is required to achieve GGR at large scale and (7) guarantee there are the skills and knowledge required for all this to happen.

Building on extensive existing links to stakeholders in business, Government and NGOs, the Hub will work extensively with everyone involved in regulating and delivering GGR to ensure our research provides solutions to strategic priorities. We will also encourage the teams working on demonstrator technologies to think responsibly about the risks, benefits and public perceptions of their work and consider the full environmental, social and economic implications of implementation from the outset.

CO2RE will seek to bring the GGR community in the UK as a whole closer together, functioning as a gateway to UK inter-disciplinary research expertise on GGR. We will inform, and stay informed, about the latest developments nationally and internationally, and reach out to engage the wider public. In doing so we will be able to respond to a rapidly evolving landscape recognising that technical and social change are not separate, but happen together. To accelerate and achieve meaningful change, we will be guided by consultation with key decision-makers and the general public, and set up a £1m flexible fund to respond to priorities that emerge with the help of the wider UK academic community. Ultimately we will help the UK and the world understand how GGR can be scaled up responsibly as part of climate action to meet the ambition of net zero.

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