Despite growing momentum, the carbon removal industry is not yet on track to get to the gigaton scales of CO₂ removal that are needed to help mitigate climate change. According to Nan, the supply is currently limited because it takes time for entrepreneurs to develop new technologies but also because, historically, there just haven’t been any buyers for carbon removal. Essentially, entrepreneurs in the field are confronted with the risk that their future customer base will not be large enough to justify the time and resources that they need to spend on developing the technologies.
Stripe and the other founding members of Frontier - Alphabet, Shopify, Meta, McKinsey & Co. - created the fund to address this issue. The AMC sends a clear demand signal to entrepreneurs, researchers and investors in the field that there is going to be a market for carbon removal, which in turn should catalyze supply.
The concept of Frontier’s AMC is borrowed from vaccine development and comprises three main steps:
Nan underlined that Frontier will mainly enter pre-purchase agreements in the early years because supply is limited. As the market matures and the cost curve comes down, the majority of the funds will be spent on offtake agreements.
Frontier does not specify the number of tons that they want to remove, nor are they setting a benchmark for how much should be spent on which type of technology solution. Simply put, the aim is to create an ecosystem of solutions and get carbon removal on its best possible trajectory. To achieve this, Frontier set a number of criteria that carbon removal solutions should fulfill to be elegible for funding. The four most important ones that were highlighted by Nan are: permanent CO₂ storage, a low physical footprint, a path to being affordable at scale, and potential to contribute more than half a gigaton of carbon removal per year.
By creating Frontier, Stripe has taken an important step to transform carbon removal into a billion dollar industry. Still, several challenges remain to scale the technologies, especially with regard to the measurement, reporting and verification of the removed tons. According to Nan, policymakers need to create robust standards that are “criteria specific and technology agnostic” in order to be open to new innovations. This should also support the creation of a compliance market for carbon removal, since voluntary commitments alone will unlikely be enough to permanently remove billions of tons of CO₂ from the air.