Rewind: the 2023 Carbon Removers Summit
Earlier this month, we held our second annual Carbon Removers Summit in Washington, DC. Our vision for the day: convene a bunch of carbon removers in one space to have bold and uncommon conversations about everything carbon removal could be — and how we get there together. This was a day to get down to brass tacks, challenge our assumptions, and bring ideas from the edges of carbon removal to center stage.
That morning, we were joined by carbon removal startups, policymakers, community leaders, labor representatives, academics, ENGO folks, and more. Senator Tina Smith welcomed everyone with recorded remarks, positing that the US can choose to lead or follow in the advancement of carbon removal: “Last year, Congress decided to lead.”
That flowed directly into a session on DAC hubs — the Department of Energy’s (DOE) $3.5 billion bet on a gigaton-removing future. Panelists probed into topics like the makeup of a “good” Community Benefits Plan, the integration of Justice40 in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Class VI wells guidelines, and what long-term community engagement could look like.
Attendees then broke into different sessions. Some folks dug into agroforestry — its benefits and challenges, how we can put money and opportunities into the hands of individual farmers, and what durability means. Panelists underscored a need for stronger funding, especially for Tribal programs, and a bolstered workforce for tree maintenance and management.
In another room, others gathered for “CDR for nerds and optimists,” a series of lightning talks on the latest (and most hopeful) scientific studies in the field. Three CDR “nerds” gave updates on public acceptance of carbon removal, post-storage leakage from enhanced rock weathering, and modeling for ambitious CDR deployment targets.
After coming together for a keynote from artist Mary Mattingly, attendees scattered for more breakouts. In a session on the role of public data, we explored the biggest research gaps that are stifling progress in CDR and how to broadly communicate what information we do and do not know. Meanwhile, another panel gave a 360-degree examination of federal procurement, with experts from labor and the Hill weighing in on how we set standards for voluntary purchasing and what to be mindful of as DOE’s pilot purchasing program kicks off. Also making waves: a dialogue on ocean CDR that spanned research funding, the idea of the ocean as a global commons, and more.
In a final session, everyone gathered for a Q&A with our newly minted environmental justice team. We passed a microphone around the room as guests popcorned their questions about models for community ownership in direct air capture, the marriage between science and environmental justice, tools to navigate conversations in an open and honest manner, what defines an affected community, and more.
To cap off the Summit, Régine Clément from CREO delivered closing remarks, stressing the need to move faster on deployment and slow down to get our bearings on carbon accounting systems and critical talent development. What we need most urgently of all, said Régine, is the courage to take risks with the best information we have today. Buoyed by these reflections, guests carried their (bold and uncommon) conversations over to a sunlit happy hour on the roof.
We’ll see you again next year — and we’ll likely be talking about a very different carbon removal field by then.
Edited by Tracy Yu