Greenhouse Gas Removal from the Atmosphere

Clouds

The programme will undertake research to improve our knowledge of the options for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at a climatically-relevant scale, giving interdisciplinary attention to the environmental, technical, economic, governance and wider societal aspects of such approaches on a national level and in an international context.

The programme is supported by NERC, the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), with in-kind contributions from the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

£8.6 million UK research programme on greenhouse gas removal

20 Apr 2017

New research will investigate ways to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to counteract global warming.


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The large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is assumed in nearly all scenario-based climate models that succeed in "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels" as well as the more ambitious pursuit of "efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1·5°C above pre-industrial levels" ‒ as agreed in Paris in December 2015 at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Furthermore, such 'negative emissions' by greenhouse gas removal (GGR) are also almost certainly necessary to achieve "a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty". Thus some anthropogenic emissions, (eg those from agriculture) which will be extremely difficult to eliminate, will need to be balanced by active uptake to achieve emission neutrality.

The feasibility, mechanisms and implications of GGR are, however, insufficiently understood. Thus it is currently highly uncertain that any single GGR technique, or combination of techniques, can be implemented at the scale likely to be required to avoid dangerous climate change - with such deployment being in addition to, not as an alternative to, the priority actions of reducing emissions at source, maximising energy efficiency, and protecting natural carbon sinks.

Important knowledge gaps for GGR include those relating to technological efficiency, environmental impacts (that may be both positive and negative), cost-effectiveness, governance, geo-political equity, social impacts, financing and public acceptability. As a result, the constraints on the effective future implementation of GGR are only poorly (if at all) characterised in model pathways. Coordinated research on such topics will advance scientific understanding whilst also contributing to policy-relevant assessments, providing evidence for decisions on which GGR approaches warrant the next level of research and development investment to implement effective climate change mitigation.

Whilst potential co-benefits (eg with regard to maintaining biodiversity, flood prevention, air quality and meeting the UN sustainable development goals) are an important consideration for some GGR techniques, most research effort is expected to address the 'weakest links': the key uncertainties, knowledge gaps and trade-offs likely to be involved, with implications for societal legitimacy.

Technical, economic, societal and environmental perspectives of GGR research were considered at a community workshop held in London on 28 April, attended by researchers and stakeholders representing a wide spectrum of interests.

The co-support by NERC, EPSRC, ESRC and BEIS of the GGR programme reflects its interdisciplinary and strategic purpose, not only to advance scientific understanding in those funders' remits, but also to provide information and evidence relevant to UK climate policy needs and more widely. Overall programme objectives reflect that strategic purpose, as follows:

  • To better define the 'real world' feasibility of GGR techniques that might significantly assist in achieving climate policy goals from a range of technical, economic, societal and environmental perspectives.
  • To synthesise and assess existing and newly-acquired information on potential GGR techniques, making those informed assessments easily available and useful to the national and international policy-making community for maximum impact.

The outcomes are expected to be of particular value to:

  • UK national climate change policy, providing evidence and advice to BEIS and the UK Committee on Climate Change, with regard to the latter body's statutory advice on national carbon budgets and the future UK reporting requirements (through nationally determined contributions) of the Paris agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, working closely with the Met Office Hadley Centre.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in the context of its sixth assessment report tentatively scheduled for publication in 2021 (the cut-off date for literature which can be considered is yet to be decided) and special reports. Also other intergovernmental bodies, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with particular interests in the impacts of unconventional climate mitigation.

Timing

2017 - 2021

Can I apply for a grant?

No, there are no current grant funding opportunities for this programme.

Budget

£8·6 million, four-year research programme, co-funded by NERC, BEIS, EPSRC and ESRC.

Programme awards

Award details are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web.

View details of funded applications - external link