Conference recap, day one: Leaders emerge amid fresh faces

The first day of the Negative CO2 Emissions Conference is officially in the books! Your CCR correspondents Noah Deich and Jane Zelikova spent the day at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden participating in a number of technical sessions.

Here’s our quick recap of the key developments we saw in the field.

1. There are lots of new faces at the table.

With several hundred conference participants from all over the world, this is the biggest dedicated convening of carbon removal practitioners to date (that we are aware of). Not surprisingly, the attendees were mostly from research and academic institutions, but there were a handful of corporate, investor, and policymaker representatives in the room as well. Given the increasing attention on carbon removal in discussions around climate mitigation goals and pathways, it is a great sign to see both old and new experts participating in the conversation.

 My favorite poster in the "wild ideas" for carbon removal category goes to this one on "artificial thermal mountains."

My favorite poster in the "wild ideas" for carbon removal category goes to this one on "artificial thermal mountains."

2. Sweden steps into a leadership role around carbon removal.

Sweden’s state secretary for climate change provided the welcoming remarks to the conference, reminding us that Sweden has set a 2045 target for net-negative emissions. There were a handful of parallel sessions on the role of carbon removal in Scandinavia specifically. To get on track for meeting this goal, the ministry has launched an official inquiry into the potential for forests, soil, and bioenergy to provide carbon removal in Sweden.

Sweden is one of (if not the) only country to set an emissions reductions goal beyond net-zero. Importantly, the official noted that pursuing carbon removal is not an excuse for reducing emissions “as far as possible and as soon as possible.”

I have many technical questions in response to this announcement (How is this reflected in Sweden’s NDC? What does Sweden consider carbon removal solutions? Is Sweden going to invest in carbon removal outside its borders?), but hopefully other countries can follow in Sweden’s footsteps and at least begin to assess how emissions can be not just reduced but turned completely in reverse.

Other assorted discoveries from day one:

  1. A smartphone app called LandPKS is under development via a partnership with USAID and the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD). When completed, it will help land managers understand their land at the tap of a smartphone.

  2. SaskPower — the utility behind the post-combustion coal power plant CCS project at the Boundary Dam facility in Canada — has spun out a new International CCS Knowledge Centre aiming to promote CCS projects around the world. Their CEO Mike Monea remarked that this plant alone has shown three promising pathways for significantly reducing the cost of these types of retrofits in the future: modularization of key components/systems, right-sizing of major units based on actual operating data from Boundary Dam, and rapid prototyping and testing processes to find incremental technology improvements.

  3. Not necessarily apropos to this conference, but the “USE IT Act” unanimously passed through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today. The bill was able to move forward after a number of bipartisan changes were adopted via amendment, and the bill secured more co-sponsors including EPW Ranking Member Carper (D-DE) and Senator Duckworth (D-IL).