Carbon removal was buoyed by federal attention, Congressional support, and field-wide investments in 2021, more than any year prior. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (BID) put an exclamation mark on the end of the year; between that and the Build Back Better Act (BBB), which potentially passes soon, we could have two first-of-their-kind investments critical to drawing down historical emissions. Let’s celebrate a year’s worth of progress for carbon removal, no longer on the sidelines but a core piece of climate action.
Throughout 2021, we’ve seen broad support for research and development, deployment incentives, new infrastructure, and regulations in everything from dedicated geologic storage to direct air capture (DAC) to soil health. By our measure, billions of dollars have been set aside for carbon removal this year alone.
Here are the highlights:
- All on the line: Carbon removal got its first dedicated line in the President’s Budget
- DOE Earthshot: DOE unveiled its initiative to remove and store CO₂ at scale for less than $100 per metric ton within a decade
- CO₂ storage: EPA’s Class VI Wells program was reinvigorated by the BID with a much-needed funding bump for CO₂ storage
- Equity: The White House centered environmental justice (EJ), launching the Justice40 initiative and directing agencies to consider EJ across programs
- A moment in the sun: Carbon removal was a New York Magazine cover story, a Good Morning America segment, and a New York Times feature
- Major capital: Solugen, a decarbonizing chemicals company, raised $357 million, and Elon Musk announced a $100 million carbon removal XPrize, setting a new record for private investment in carbon removal
- Innovation: Science innovation accelerator Activate launched a fellowship for carbon removal upstarts, with early support from payments giant Stripe
- Deployment: Climework’s DAC project opened in Iceland, the largest commercial plant to date that draws down 4,000 tons of CO₂ a year
- Billions for DAC: DOE committed to oversee the build and implementation of four regional DAC hubs across the country, with $3.5 billion promised in the BID
- Forestry: An array of forestry programs received $8 billion from the BID, the REPLANT Act passed, and the US launched a national seedling strategy
- Soil carbon: USDA unveiled the Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Program to launch soil carbon pilot projects and invested $10M in soil carbon monitoring within the Conservation Reserve Program
- New faces: From soil scientists to negative emissions experts, the White House, DOE, and USDA staffed up with carbon removal champions