Addressing the threat of climate change while building a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future
In July 2020, over seventy leaders across science, business, finance, policy, and civil society came together for a Direct Air Capture Climate Mobilization Summit hosted by the Elk Coast Institute. Our objective was to assess the role that Direct Air Capture (DAC) should play in enabling the large-scale carbon removal that the world urgently needs to address climate change and to develop a high-level plan for radically accelerating its deployment globally. Over several weeks, the Summit participants – which included the leaders of all the major DAC companies as well as diverse, independent stakeholders from many disciplines – drafted a key set of findings and recommendations for how best to mobilize society toward this objective.
A critical finding of the Summit is that we have to scale Carbon Removal capacity even faster and higher than is commonly thought. We calculate that by 2040, society will need 45 gigatonnes of installed carbon removal capacity, with a significant percentage of that powered by DAC, to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. To face this massive challenge — and secure the benefits that a more sustainable, resilient and equitable circular carbon economy can deliver — requires the establishment of a comprehensive public-private effort on the scale of the Apollo Program to demonstrate the performance, scalability, and utilization of DAC technology by 2025.
The critical milestones we identify for mobilizing to scale DAC by 2025 are:
- Installation of a DAC capacity of one million tonnes per year by 2022 and 8 million tonnes by 2025, combined with a cost reduction of DAC to between $50 and $100 per tonne. This program, using public-private partnerships, would cost less than $10 billion over 5 years, and form the basis for global mobilization to keep atmospheric CO2 concentrations under control.
- Demonstration of the economic viability of synthetic liquid fuels and materials such as carbon fiber and polymer production at scale. The inputs to this would be atmospheric CO2, captured through DAC, and green hydrogen-powered by renewable energy. The importance of materials like carbon fiber, concrete, and plastics is that they sequester atmospheric CO2. and can be utilized by society at the gigatonne scale.