The CDR "Industry" and Parallels to the Concept of "Sustainability"

Most industries are fairly clearly defined: when one thinks of mining, energy, agriculture, banking, healthcare, etc., one can reliably surmise the types of activities that the businesses in those industries undertake. The "industry" of CDR, on the other hand, does not avail itself to such easy categorization. In fact, the concept of a CDR "industry" is likely too broad to be meaningful. In this regard, CDR is analogous to the concept of "sustainability." In the same way that nearly all industries can be "sustainable" and there isn't a distinct "sustainability industry," so too does CDR defy categorization as a distinct industry. Instead, companies across many industries can analyze how incorporate the concepts of CDR into their operations can yield double bottom line benefit.

So why does it matter that CDR does not fit into a clean industry bucket?

  1. On the one hand, it makes the task of scaling CDR approaches more complex. Because no single industry can be targeted for scaling up CDR, significant collaboration across many public, private, and civil sector actors will be required to accelerate the pace of CDR development and deployment -- and such collaboration is frequently quite challenging.
  2. On the other hand, it means that the potential opportunities for scaling CDR abound. Companies across dozens of industries are likely to find CDR a possibility. For example, carbon negative shipping, agriculture, mining, energy, and buildings are all potentially feasible in the future. This counter-intuitive finding that some of today's biggest contributors to CO2 emissions hold the potential to be net-negative emitters in the future is quite encouraging -- and is only highlighted when CDR is not thought of as an industry unto itself.