The 10 carbon removal trends that defined 2022
From millions in capital to major legislation on Capitol Hill. Plus, where we think politics and technology are headed in 2023.
by Erin Burns, executive director
We’re two years into the Biden presidency, with a host of new faces across federal agencies and more than $1 billion in public support for carbon removal in FY22. The field has come a long way in a short time.
This year gave carbon removal more of the private and public resources it needs to scale — which is good news given the UN IPCC Sixth Assessment Report definitively affirms the need for 380 gigatons of CO₂ removal by 2100. Major bipartisan legislation has been introduced and passed, signaling durability as we welcome the 118th Congress. We’ve also seen NGOs build out carbon removal programs, including environmental justice organizations who can shape how carbon removal is implemented from the beginning. Now, we must also be sure that carbon removal pays out massive environmental, social, and economic opportunities in the process.
The highlights could go on for pages, but we’ve done our best to pull out carbon removal’s biggest hits from 2022. 🎉
- Government purchasing: The introduction of the bicameral Federal CDR Leadership Act is an early sign of Congressional support to directly purchase carbon removal.
- Research: The Chips and Science Act passed, securing $1 billion for carbon removal RD&D.
- Forest preservation: Bipartisan Congressional leaders introduced the Save Our Sequoias Act as a comprehensive reforestation strategy to preserve these iconic trees.
- Deployment: Climeworks, CarbonCapture, and Carbon Engineering made strides towards removing tons of CO₂, announcing plans for three DAC projects with dozens more in the pipeline through 2035.
- Big buys: Alphabet, Meta, McKinsey, Shopify, and Stripe launched Frontier, an advance market commitment for carbon removal worth $925 million, sending a demand signal to potential buyers and sellers.
- Conservation: The Inflation Reduction Act included $20 billion for land conservation efforts across the country.
- DAC incentives: The 45Q tax credit was rehauled in the Inflation Reduction Act to make it more accessible to DAC developers, including an increased credit value of $180 per ton.
- Climate Smart: USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Program announced funding for a range of soil carbon and agroforestry recipients.
- DAC Hubs: DOE (just!) released the first funding opportunity announcement for the $3.5 billion DAC Hubs program, sharing details around technology scope, timing, and justice considerations.
- Venture funds: Private capital flowing to carbon removal startups is at an all-time high — Climeworks recently raised $650 million.
So, what lies ahead?
Until about 2018, federal carbon removal policy was functionally non-existent. But that has changed dramatically over the past four years. Massive investments, bipartisan bills, call outs in the President’s Budget: carbon removal has arrived. So, what will 2023 bring?
It’s going to be a big year for soil carbon. While land-based carbon removal was barely on Congress’ radar in 2018, the House and Senate have since introduced bills, USDA has funded climate-smart projects, and states have launched their own soil carbon efforts.
The Farm Bill will put a bigger spotlight on soil carbon as a bipartisan climate solution, but the expansion of sequestration practices will happen in a different political and policy landscape than what we’ve seen with DAC: while clean energy and carbon management policy are really only a couple of decades old, US agriculture policy has decades worth of history, with priorities that reach far beyond climate (and certainly beyond carbon removal).
Ongoing negotiations will influence how much attention climate and soil carbon receives in the upcoming Farm Bill, but as coalitions form, we’ll leave 2023 with a much clearer picture of the future of soil carbon policy in the US.
Next year, the Department of Energy (DOE) will take its first major step in selecting where four megaton DAC hubs will be built — and just this week released program guidance. It represents the largest federal investment in carbon removal ever and a 400 times increase in global DAC capacity, defining the domestic and global DAC industry and introducing this technology to communities across the country.
While DOE and its Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management have staffed up with people who have dedicated their career to equity and justice, the recent White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council decision to not provide input on carbon management shows we’ve still got a long way to go. It’ll be a defining year for the intersection of environmental justice priorities and carbon removal as communities learn about DAC for the first time and new projects break ground.
Policymakers will focus more on emerging and frontier solutions in the coming year. For one, the National Academies released their ocean carbon removal report and there’s already bipartisan interest in both coastal and deep ocean pathways. Appropriators also began setting aside dedicated funding for mineralization, which can store carbon in a solid form underground or in durable materials like concrete.
Monitoring, reporting, and verification
Finally, as the market for carbon removal grows with an increased value for DAC in 45Q and private buyers like Frontier, companies will need to demonstrate that their technology provides real climate benefits with robust monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV). MRV is necessary to build trust and ensure projects are accountable to communities and taxpayers alike. Carbon removal saw significant growth in 2022, teeing up MRV to be a priority in 2023.
Thank you for reading! Leave your 2023 predictions in the comments.