Located in Iceland, Orca is the world's first large-scale carbon dioxide removal plant.
On 17th March, Climeworks and Carbon180 jointly hosted a virtual fireside chat about “The future of direct air capture policy” to discuss the important role that policies play in shaping the direct air capture and carbon dioxide removal market. As noted by Christoph Beuttler, Climeworks’ head of climate policy, we cannot wait until these technologies get cheaper, we have to do something for them to get cheaper.
Watch the recording of our fireside chat or head directly to our key take-aways of the event below!
Key take-aways of the event
Christoph Beuttler and Carbon180’s executive director Erin Burns kicked off the fireside chat with their expert insights on how the United States, Switzerland, and the European Union are approaching carbon dioxide removal. In the past four years, the policy landscape in the US and Europe has changed at an incredible speed. Whereas the United States has been more focused on mobilizing massive investments into R&D for direct air capture, Switzerland and the EU have typically taken a more regulatory-focused approach.
After the passing of the US Infrastructure bill, 3.5$ billion have been made available at the US Department of Energy to build four regional direct air capture hubs. As highlighted by Erin Burns, this level of investment demonstrates a big shift in how the US government is approaching climate technologies. At the same time, the commitment and interest by companies like Stripe and Shopify to support carbon removal technologies is hoped to advance discussions at the federal level about standards regarding high-quality carbon removal.
Erin Burns, executive director of Carbon180
I think in the US in particular this conversation has really been driven by the private sector and there has been a very renewed interest in high-quality carbon accounting.
In Europe, Switzerland has taken one of the leading positions in advancing negative emissions with the net-zero goal that was adopted in 2019. When we think about carbon removal on a bigger scale, the EU certification mechanism that is expected to be finalized by the end of the year could eventually serve as a global blueprint for how we treat carbon removals. As a next step, carbon removal should be integrated in a meaningful way into the EU Emissions Trading System.
Christoph Beuttler, head of climate policy at Climeworks
To get this to scale, we will need markets, and for that, we will have to have a robust certification mechanism because we have to prevent a race to the bottom in carbon dioxide removal. We must reward transparency and permanence.
In the second part of the fireside chat, Bergur Sigfússon from Carbfix and Alma Stefansdottir from the Icelandic Youth Environmentalist Association joined our policy experts to talk about stakeholder engagement. Any direct air capture project benefits when a range of stakeholders such as environmental, non-governmental organizations, youth organizations, labor unions, and academia are approached and given the opportunity to ask the questions that they have.
As Alma Stefánsdóttir highlighted, it’s all about having a dialogue: if you want to reach acceptance for your project, people need to understand what it is that you are doing. For Carbfix, who have been involving public stakeholders in their projects for many years, reaching out to the local and regional government with as much information as possible was a crucial step to establish transparency and build up trust. According to Erin Burns, factoring in the social dimension of building direct air capture facilities is something that future projects can learn from Orca and is going to be essential for success.
Alma Stefánsdóttir, circular economy representative at the Icelandic Youth Environmentalist Association
Orca is a great example because Climeworks and Carbfix considered both the physical environment and the social dimensions. The public is following what’s going on and I feel like it’s something that Icelanders are quite proud of.