Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Greenhouse gas removal demonstrators: directorate hub

The aim of this programme is to assess sustainable routes for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, allowing the UK to take a major step towards achieving net zero emissions, and to benefit from the £400 billion future global market in greenhouse gas removal.

Budget:
up to £6.1 million for the greenhouse gas removal demonstrators directorate hub
Duration:
February 2021 to 2026 (4 years 6 months)
Partners involved:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK

The scope and what we're doing

The greenhouse gas removal demonstrators programme will assess sustainable routes for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, allowing the UK to take a major step towards achieving net zero emissions, and placing the UK in a leading position to benefit from the £400 billion future global market in greenhouse gas removal.

The funding forms part of the interdisciplinary £31.5 million Strategic Priority Fund Wave 2 Greenhouse Gas Removal Demonstrators programme.

There are three central objectives of the programme.

Development of a suite of GGR technologies at demonstrator scale

This has a budget of £22.5 million, and is led by BBSRC. The programme will establish up to five demonstrators, of a size and duration that will allow the potential for large-scale emissions removal to be assessed. The demonstrators will include research on comprehensive life cycle analysis, including the full carbon budget, economics and financing, co-benefits and trade-offs, social and cultural implications, and environmental implications. Demonstrators could include, but are not limited to:

  • direct air carbon capture and storage
  • enhanced terrestrial weathering
  • bioenergy with carbon capture and storage
  • biochar
  • large-scale afforestation.

Development of successful greenhouse gas removal solutions

The directorate hub is responsible for understanding the economics, governance, society and ethics of greenhouse gas removal. This has a budget of £6.1 million, and is led by NERC. The hub will carry out and commission research, working with and across the demonstrators and the broader research community on:

  • how the social, cultural, behavioural, and economic contexts of greenhouse gas removal solutions can inform effective scale up of the technologies
  • ethical, sustainable, economic and legal implications of proceeding with greenhouse gas removal solutions nationally and internationally
  • appropriate monitoring, verification, governance, and regulation
  • perceptions of risks and options for addressing them, including the role of communication and engagement
  • business models, financing options and incentives for technological interventions
  • public engagement and participation in decision making about greenhouse gas removal processes.

Sustainable greenhouse gas removal solutions: supporting technologies to readiness

The hub, in conjunction with feasibility studies. This has a budget of £1.5 million, and is led by Innovate UK in year three of the programme from 2023 to 2024.

Moving from the demonstrators to implementation will require identification of commercially viable and scalable business-led innovations, which can be developed for national and international markets.

This will be delivered by:

  • supporting existing and new incubators and interdisciplinary networks across relevant research and business communities
  • support for UK business-focused conferences on greenhouse gas removal to support innovator and early adopters involved in greenhouse gas removal, such as, big businesses trying to be net zero, carbon accountancy firms, and trade associations working together
  • competitions, delivered by Innovate UK, to support feasibility studies or collaborative research and development projects for business-led bioenergy with carbon capture and storage projects, or internationally-relevant greenhouse gas removal technologies
  • collaboration with stakeholders to co-create evidence and outputs that meet users’ needs.

Why we're doing it

There is overwhelming scientific evidence that the human release of greenhouse gases is changing the Earth’s climate. In 2015, governments from around the world met to agree a framework that would minimise the negative consequences of climate change.

The Paris Agreement sets a goal to limit global average temperature increase to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”, and to “pursue efforts” to limit it to 1.5°C.

The role of rapid emissions reduction in meeting this target is widely understood. But it is increasingly clear that reducing emissions is not enough – we must also actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. New technologies have emerged that show promise in removing CO2 from the atmosphere but these are not well understood and mostly unproven at large scale.

The implementation of sustainable greenhouse gas removal solutions is broader than the technical development of different methods. Greenhouse gas removal methods differ widely in terms of their potential costs, impacts, environmental and social risks, co-benefits and trade-offs. Further research is required to understand the range of implications of each greenhouse gas removal solution:

  • holistic assessments of their feasibility and acceptability
  • how they can be designed to take into account novel business operating models
  • appropriate governance that takes into account ethics, potential risks and public perceptions
  • appropriate governance to ensure both ethical and proportionate operations.

Support is then required to help progress the technologies to readiness, to develop appropriate incentives for scaling up, and to strengthen links to a range of business sectors.

Who to contact

Ask a question about the programme

Email: ggr@nerc.ukri.org

Last updated: 31 March 2022

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