The world is not on track to meet global climate targets

Chapter 1:

The path to net zero

Tackling the climate crisis is a race against the clock. To meet the Paris Agreement’s target, of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, greenhouse gas emissions must drop 45% by 2030 and must then decrease even more dramatically to net zero by 2050.

However, countries and companies around the world are not reducing their emissions fast enough or as deeply as needed to avert the worst effects of climate change. Even if current national commitments were met, the world would still see temperature rises of 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels this century, according to the UN Environment Programme.

Experts and scientific bodies have made it clear that dramatically reducing emissions will not be enough to reach global climate targets. We need to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the atmosphere if we’re to have a chance at limiting global warming.

Carbon removal is the process of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and locking it away, reducing the overall amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

There are a variety of nature and technology-based ways to remove carbon, each with different capabilities and at different stages of readiness. They also offer different levels of permanence, with some methods only storing carbon for short periods compared to others that operate on geological time frames.

Companies that won’t be able to reduce their emissions to zero in time to reach climate goals can purchase carbon credits from carbon removals providers. These could include economically essential industries like aviation and agriculture businesses.

To incentivise carbon removals projects and spur carbon markets, businesses and governments need to collaborate and align on the sale of carbon removals credits, pricing structures, and verification procedures.

From scientists to industry bodies to policy analysts, we brought together experts from across the globe to explain the role carbon removals must play in tackling the climate crisis, and what’s needed to implement these solutions at scale, sustainably.

“Carbon removals have a pivotal role to play in achieving net zero. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to achieve the Paris Agreement targets of keeping temperature increases below 2°C, we need to remove at least 10 gigatonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year by 2050.

“Given the urgent need to both rapidly reduce direct emissions and scale up carbon removals, there must be strong incentives for companies to invest in carbon dioxide removals (CDRs).”

Sasha Mackler, Executive Director of the Energy Program, Bipartisan Policy Center 

“When we look at our climate goals and the challenges we face in hitting them by mid-century (which is really only three decades from now), we know we’re going to need ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere at scale.”

Kristin Jordal, Zero Emissions Platform & Chief Scientist at SINTEF

“Most of all we need drastic emission reductions. But we also need carbon removals for two reasons: to compensate for historical emissions and to counteract non-abatable emissions in the future to reach that net zero target.”

 Paul Davies, Director, Coalition for Negative Emissions

“Investors and the public are putting increasing pressure on companies to commit to net zero, and as a result there is now a significant valuation premium for companies with strong Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) credentials and net zero targets.”

Chapter 2:

Nature-based and engineered removals

There are a range of different ways of removing carbon from the atmosphere, but they all rely on either natural or technological methods of extraction.

Nature-based techniques can utilise plants and forests’ ability to absorb CO2, via photosynthesis. These include regenerating forests and mangrove ecosystems or planting new forests.

More complex methods of carbon removal include enhanced rock weathering, which involves pulverising rocks and spreading the powder over a larger area to absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere, increasing soil carbon through agricultural techniques or enhancing oceans’ absorption abilities. Innovative solutions, such as start-up Graphyte’s, have attracted investment from the likes of Bill Gate’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures. The company’s approach takes waste biomass, like wood residue or rice hulls, and condenses the material into sealed blocks, these are then stored in engineered underground sites – preventing absorbed carbon being released.

There are also technological or engineered methods of carbon removal. Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) for example uses energy, ideally from renewable sources, to remove carbon from ambient air and store it permanently and safely in deep, geological formations.

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) offers an approach that combines nature and engineering-based methods. BECCS uses sustainably sourced biomass, which has absorbed carbon from the atmosphere as it grows, to generate renewable power. The biogenic carbon dioxide released from the biomass combustion is captured and stored permanently and safely, in geological locations, like saline aquifers or depleted oil and gas reserves.

BECCS and DACCS both inject CO2 into deep geological storage, based on long-established practises of the oil and gas industry, to lock captured carbon away permanently, removing it from the carbon cycle completely. It offers carbon removal on an extremely long-term or near permanent scale, compared to other types of carbon removals or offsets.

Paul Davies, Director, Coalition for Negative Emissions

“Nature-based solutions can include things like growing trees, enhancing soil and ocean absorption of CO2, or restoring peatland and wetlands. Engineered solutions include Direct Air Capture, which extracts CO2 directly from the atmosphere, and BECCS, where biogenic materials such as wood, grass or waste food is used to generate power. The CO2 those materials have absorbed from the atmosphere is then captured and stored geologically.”

Kristin Jordal, Zero Emissions Platform & Chief Scientist at SINTEF

“The most common way of capturing carbon from an industrial emissions source, such as bioenergy plants, is to “wash” the CO2 out of the flue gas with a liquid that we call a solvent. The process results in a concentrated stream of CO2. Once you have this you can transport it to an underground location where you can store it, and there is very good geology for doing so. For instance, deep below the North Sea there is porous sandstone, little holes filled with salty water.

“You can inject CO2 in there, it mixes and dissolves in the salty water. The CO2 stored underground is continuously monitored, reported and verified using methods that have been perfected for over decades.”

Nasim Pour, Lead, Carbon Removals and Market Innovation, World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition

“Each CDR option, whether nature-based or engineered, has its strengths and weaknesses. So, while engineered removals like DACCS and BECCS may offer a greater level of permanence and long-term scalability, they are not yet available at the price or volume required to make a significant impact on climate change.”

“Nature-based removal options are affordable and ready to use. They also offer co-benefits, such as to biodiversity, ecosystem services, natural catastrophe resilience and so on. However, given the limited scalability and durability of nature-based solutions, we will need engineered CDRs by mid-century to deliver the majority of carbon removals.”

Chapter 3:

The role of BECCS in carbon removals

BECCS offers an important form of carbon removal in its ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere at scale, while delivering dispatchable, renewable power to support energy security in countries around the world. It’s a powerful solution to both decarbonising energy systems, as countries transition to increasingly electric, low-carbon economies, while removing residual and historic emissions

“One of the biggest sources of cost and energy associated with technological carbon removals is that a lot of energy and infrastructure is required. If we can harness the natural systems in our biosphere that already capture carbon, we can save a lot of money and capital expense.

“While some forms of high-quality carbon removal require an enormous amount of electricity or energy to operate, BECCS actually generates low-carbon electricity as part of its process.”

Kristin Jordal, Zero Emissions Platform & Chief Scientist at SINTEF

“BECCS is an energy delivery product, as a co-benefit of the carbon removal. It’s also more energy efficient compared to DACCS since the CO2 is captured from an emissions source point, with significantly higher CO2 concentration than the atmosphere. However, it is important that for any form of carbon removal process, any associated upstream and downstream greenhouse gas emissions are taken into account to quantify the actual net removal.”

Nasim Pour, Lead, Carbon Removals and Market Innovation, World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition

“BECCS is the only CDR technology which in addition to having a high CO2 removal potential, can also produce renewable power and heat, as well as biofuels. So, if the biomass feeding BECCS projects comes from a sustainable source, then BECCS could reduce greenhouse gas emissions not only by removing carbon from the atmosphere but also avoiding emissions from fossil fuel-based alternatives.”

Chapter 4:

Government and corporate collaboration

For carbon removal projects to be effectively deployed at scale, and to start offering carbon removal credits to emissions-intensive industries, frameworks, infrastructure, and policies must be established that can support both carbon removal technologies and markets.

Today the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) is the primary driver of investment in carbon credits. However, effective climate action cannot rely on a voluntary system. The creation of a global compliance market, which would set mandates for businesses to purchase carbon removals against emissions they have not reduced to zero, is required.

Sasha Mackler, Executive Director of the Energy Program, Bipartisan Policy Center 

“Government policies have played an enormous role in shaping energy investments for hundreds of years. We need the right incentives in place so carbon removal technologies and projects can scale. That starts with government policy and with having markets for these technologies to secure a foothold.”

Paul Davies, Director, Coalition for Negative Emissions

“Scaling up carbon removals will require international cooperation between public and private sectors to drive demand. Companies need to implement net zero plans and will need to purchase carbon removals to offset their residual emissions. Governments, on the other hand, need to encourage negative emission projects and allow removals as offsets to increasing regulatory controls and carbon taxes.”

Juho Lipponen, CCUS Initiative Coordinator, Clean Energy Ministerial

“Collaboration is important so that policymakers share their best practises and information as to what type of policy mechanisms have worked and what their experience has been. But equally, what has not worked, which will enable learning and avoid mistakes being repeated.”

Beth Hebditch, Policy Manager, Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA)

“We‘ve seen significant steps taken with the UK government allocating £20 billion of revenue support to CCUS. The government has also selected eight CO2 capture projects to enter negotiations for cluster deployment before 2030.

“Clusters refer to multiple industrial point sources of CO2 that would be connected to a transport and storage network. These would enable the sharing of infrastructure and reduce costs through economies of scale.”


“Governments need to understand what carbon capture and storage is and how it works, so that they can regulate it in a purposeful manner. You also need the right financial framework. You need to stimulate the demand for it. You need to provide predictability for making investments, creating early interest, and ensuring clear financial and regulatory expansion.”

Chris Sherwood, Secretary General, Negative Emissions Platform

“Governments should be thinking about how to incentivise the deployment of carbon removals, including through procurement of carbon removal credits themselves as a way to stimulate the market.

“The most important policy measure that can be taken to support the deployment of carbon removals is the creation of a compliance market to ensure that companies are obliged to remove the right amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.”

Nasim Pour, Lead, Carbon Removals and Market Innovation, World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition

“Investment today is critical to build market capacity ahead of 2030 targets but in many cases that money is being blocked by some notable obstacles, namely lack of guidance, lack of urgency and lack of regulation.”

Sasha Mackler, Executive Director of the Energy Program, Bipartisan Policy Center

“The voluntary carbon market is really the central driver of investment today. If we are going to scale these carbon removal technologies and solutions over time into something that has real climate benefits, we need the voluntary carbon markets to evolve and develop a set of standards that prioritise the durability, permanence, and the quality of the removals.”

Chapter 5:

Thorough research and rigorous standards

For investors to trust carbon markets, and the carbon removals they are purchasing, that market must be able to guarantee carbon is being removed reliably, and stored safely and permanently: in other words, that carbon credits are high integrity.

Businesses that will need to purchase carbon removals to offset emissions they can’t bring to zero before 2050 will also depend on the integrity of these carbon removals. If the credits do not achieve the levels of removals, or store carbon for the duration they claim, then, as well as damaging trust in these essential markets, companies, countries and the world will not achieve the climate targets needed to advert temperature rises above 2°C.

Establishing high-integrity carbon credits and dependable markets will require a range of political, regulatory, and standardisation measures. For example: we need to ensure that biomass used in BECCS comes from verifiably sustainable sources, and that carbon storage takes place at sites that have been properly researched and developed. Decades of oil and gas industry knowledge and subsurface monitoring technology are already being utilised and repurposed for storing carbon at scale.

The Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Markets (ICVCM) is an independent body that is working to instate high standards in the industry. It has issued a set of Ten Core Carbon Principles (CCPs) that all carbon offsets and removals must meet in order to be considered high integrity, as well as a methodology designed to ensure carbon removals are robustly quantified and verified. Among the most important principles are that all reductions and removals must be: robustly quantifiable, permanent, provide additional climate benefit, and adhere to high standards of sustainability.

Nasim Pour, Lead, Carbon Removals and Market Innovation, World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition

“There’s a need for nuanced and pragmatic guardrails to allow corporates to allocate greater capital to urgent projects and for regulators to build tangible incentives in a voluntary environment.”

“The development of the carbon removal market should be in stark contrast to historic carbon credits which have been focused on payments to prevent further emissions or reduce emissions.

“Useful investments in their own right, but in themselves will not offset a company’s residual emissions; something that can only be achieved by purchasing robust carbon removals.”

Juho Lipponen, CCUS Initiative Coordinator, Clean Energy Ministerial

“Long-term storage of CO2 underground requires storage sites that are properly researched and developed. These must be well-known geological formations with the types of characteristics that are required for CO2 to be injected.

“There are also technologies available to monitor CO2 plumes underground, be it seismic or be it through different observation monitoring wells. There are also many other technologies that will enable us to assess that the CO2 remains in that formation as expected for the very long term. CO2 has a tendency to stabilise in those formations and therefore reduce the risk of any kind of leakage.

“This has been done for decades in different parts of the world so it has been well demonstrated that CO2 can be stored safely.”

Elena Bonfiglio, Policy Analyst, European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition (ERCST)

“What’s needed in EU policies for deploying carbon removal is high level support for these technologies. The recently proposed union-wide certification framework for carbon removals can be useful for deploying a market because it will set standard methodologies for these projects.

“Further policies to deliver carbon removals could be based on setting targets along the entire value chain of removals, which in this case consists of CO2 capture, transport, and storage, but also by creating a compliance market in which such removals can be traded through it.”

Chris Sherwood, Secretary General, Negative Emissions Platform

“The EU is the pioneering jurisdiction in the world in this area with the Carbon Removal Certification Framework and the Net Zero Industry Act. More progress is needed, however, to make sure that the framework provides the right kind of use cases for the credits.

“We only have one shot at this. If we fail to get the regulations around carbon removals right, we will fail to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis.”

Chapter 6:

The billion-dollar potential of carbon markets

The carbon removals market is poised to become a multi-billion-dollar industry. This will initially be driven by the voluntary carbon market but according to many of the experts, this will be accelerated by compliance markets coming into effect.

The annual demand for high-integrity, long duration carbon removals (like BECCS and DACCS) is expected to reach ~40–200 million tonnes of CO2 (Mt CO2) in 2030, growing to ~80–900 Mt CO2 per year in 2040. This is forecast to translate into a ~$10 billion to $40 billion market opportunity in 2030, with an ample runway to reach ~$20 billion to $135 billion in 2040, according to analysis from Boston Consulting Group.

The need for both innovation and scale to meet these levels of demand means there’s plentiful opportunities for new entrants, start-ups, and ambitious investors. There are clear benefits for companies that move early and begin purchasing carbon removals now before demand and prices peak.

The carbon removals market also offers wider economic benefits. Jobs in emissions-intensive industries could also be protected through removals, and new jobs will be created in developing and deploying new carbon removal infrastructure.

“It’s absolutely clear that CDR, carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) or carbon management will very soon be a multi-billion-dollar business. There’s no question about that. We’re going to have to reduce and remove CO2 and these projects are most often calculated in the orders of hundreds of millions, if not billions. This is going to be a large business for project developers, for service providers, for companies who use CCUS or government management to be able to sell a clean product to the customers. The economic implications will be huge to put it mildly.

“It can also be a key lever in protecting jobs by retaining industrial and manufacturing roles in areas that might otherwise be in decline. Carbon removals can play an important role in decarbonising sectors that are otherwise hard or impossible to decarbonise and therefore preserve the jobs and economic viability of these regions.”

Nasim Pour, Lead, Carbon Removals and Market Innovation, World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition

“Engineered CDR solutions like BECCS or DACCS can use the existing infrastructure of depleted oil and gas fields. Deploying such CDR options could actually lead to new jobs and reskilled workers in communities where traditional fossil fuel economies are winding down, which in turn could help support a just transition.”

Beth Hebditch, Policy Manager, Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA)

“In the UK, we could be looking at 70,000 new jobs, and the protection of around 77,000 jobs. Some of these would involve upskilling and reskilling existing workers into new careers.

“Manufacturing and the service provision of new technologies and components in CCUS supply chains was also estimated by the government in 2019 to be worth up to £181 billion per annum by 2050.”

Elena Bonfiglio, Policy Analyst, ERCST

“Carbon removals offer economic opportunities for developing countries which may find it difficult to switch to a decarbonised economic model, because of challenges related to energy security and social development.

“Carbon removals may also offer economic opportunities for developing countries to utilise their storage capacity. While some countries cannot quickly switch to renewable energy or completely decarbonise their energy system, they can benefit from potential storage capacity in their country’s natural landscape.”

Chapter 7:

Capturing the opportunity today

The world is entering the pivotal decades to act on the climate crisis. Failure to act now will, ultimately, result in levels of global warming that seriously damage the planet and all life on it.

Carbon removals are an essential part of the path to a net zero future. Action is needed now to develop the technology, deploy it at scale and set the regulations to deliver the necessary projects and markets.

Sasha Mackler, Executive Director of the Energy Program, Bipartisan Policy Center 

“CO2 in the atmosphere released from the combustion of fossil fuels will stay there for thousands of years, maybe even longer. We need to be developing solutions that remove CO2 on that time scale. Biomass removal, including BECCS, and Direct Air Capture technologies are two pathways that show great promise. While they’re not the only forms of durable carbon removal, they’re the ones we really need to be prioritising, developing, and scaling as quickly as we can.”

Beth Hebditch, Policy Manager, Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA)

“Accelerating the deployment of CCUS is very much a joint effort between government, regulators, and industry. What we really need is long term policy certainty from government to enable collaboration with industry.”

Juho Lipponen, CCUS Initiative Coordinator, Clean Energy Ministerial

“To accelerate carbon removals deployment, we need action on three different levels. First, commitments by governments for both climate mitigation and technological deployment in government programs. Secondly, policy mechanisms and incentives to be available for these abatement technologies to be deployed. And thirdly, regulations that enable carbon removal technologies to be deployed in a safe manner.”

Chris Sherwood, Secretary General, Negative Emissions Platform

“It’s important to remember that emissions reductions are the number one priority. And we should be supportive of the very deepest possible cuts we can make to global emissions.

“But that’s not going to be enough and we’re going to need carbon removals as well. CO2 levels are too high now and there will be residual emissions that continue and therefore we’ll need to address both of those.”

Taking stock at COP28 in Dubai, climate researchers urged for radical transformation to prevent the world from reaching more than 1.5°C. While carbon removals are not a replacement for rapid and deep emissions reductions, the amount of CO2 removed per year must soar from about 2 gigatonnes of CO2 that mostly nature-based solutions deliver today, to at least 5 gigatonnes or more by 2050. Currently, only 0.1% of those removals come from engineered and tech-based solutions, but that ratio needs to change to deliver large-scale, permanent, high-integrity carbon removal.

At Drax, we’ve committed to becoming a carbon negative company by 2030. We have invested millions of dollars and thousands of test hours towards developing BECCS at scale at Drax Power Station and aim to deliver more than 14 Mt of carbon removals per year by 2030. We have also begun work on two new BECCS facilities in the U.S. capable of generating 6 Mt of high integrity, permanent carbon removals, due to start operating between 2029 and 2031.

A net zero future is possible, but only with carbon removals. It’s vital that as an industry we work together and with government and society to deliver on our commitment.

If you’d like to know more about BECCS at Drax, explore here