When you remove carbon dioxide you should get paid

If you give off carbon dioxide emissions, you may need to pay a carbon tax. In which case, it is reasonable to be paid to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The latest report from the IPCC was clear. We need to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases already today if global climate targets are to be achievable. One way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and raised in the report is to use so called negative emissions, that is to say, in one way or other, to be able to suck the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it.

One way of doing this is to cultivate vegetation that uses carbon dioxide from the air to grow. If you then burn this vegetation, you can produce district heating and electricity, but you can also get carbon dioxide emissions, the same amount as the vegetation has locked in. But if instead of releasing the carbon dioxide, it can be captured and stored, you will then have created a carbon sink. You can also convert vegetation into biochar, that can be used as a soil improvement agent. Biochar can also act as a carbon sink.

These technologies for negative emissions cannot replace other measures to reduce emissions. On the contrary, we need every method we can possibly find to help reach climate targets. Some of these technologies are already available. They are not science fiction, they could start being used right now. This could be done at Stockholm Exergi facilities for example, which is being investigated in a project in partnership with KTH (in Swedish). All it needs is a decision to start building.

So, why isn’t this happening?
One reason is that it costs money. It costs a bit more to produce heat and power if this is done in a climate positive way. But, the costs are far from unreasonable. The estimated cost of removing carbon dioxide is roughly half the carbon tax that can be payable if you burn fossil fuels and release carbon dioxide. If we could create rules that mean you are paid to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it could be profitable.

In other words, our new parliament and incoming government ought to be clearly tasked with putting forward proposals on a reverse carbon tax. Pending such initiatives, there is nothing to stop property owners (such as Akademiska Hus and other socially responsible companies) from saying “we want to contribute to lowering carbon dioxide emissions, however. We are prepared to pay a bit more for heating to contribute to new technology being implemented and to get climate positive heat.” Stockholm Exergi and its owners (City of Stockholm and Fortum) can also say that “we think it is worth the cost. We want to lead the way and contribute – we are therefore making these investments.”

Our individual responsibility to slow climate change is sometimes discussed. There are wise individuals at all these companies and public authorities that can contribute with good decisions.

Tip of the week: Watch Cecilia Sundberg, Associate Professor at KTH talk about negative emissions here (in Swedish).