Sunday, April 24, 2022

Bootstrapping Carbon Removal Into Big Business

This month, Four Big Tech companies: Alphabet, Meta, Shopify, and Stripe, and the Sustainability practice of McKinsey, a Management Consultancy, pledged $925 million over Nine years, to bootstrap Technology to remove Carbon Dioxide from the Atmosphere, in an effort to arrest Global Warming.

A similar Project is expected to be unveiled in May, at the annual plutocrat Retreat in Davos hosted by the World Economic Forum (WEF). That Project’s instigators in the First Movers Coalition, which was forged in November 2021, and unites the WEF, America’s State Department, and dozens of big Global firms, have already made purchasing Commitments aimed at helping to Decarbonise: Aviation, Shipping, Steel, and Trucking, Industries.

Experts reckon the World must remove about 6bn tonnes of CO2 a year from the Atmosphere, by 2050 to avert the worst Impacts of Climate Change. Less than 10,000 tonnes have so far been Permanently Extracted in this way. Closing the gap thus requires heavy-duty bootstraps.

To be eligible for the Tech companies’ scheme, known as the Frontier Fund, Carbon-Removal Technologies have to pass several Tests, besides obvious ones like being Safe and Legal:

- Permanence: The Technologies must be able to Store the stuff sucked from the Air for at least 1,000 years.

- Scalability: They must Not have Land-use Requirements that are in Conflict with Food Security.

- Cost: They must have a path towards a Price tag of less than $100 per tonne of Carbon Dioxide removed, down from hundreds of dollars or more per tonne for existing techniques. These are “absolutely foundational to getting anything close to net-zero”, says Mark Patel of McKinsey.

Tonne is a metric unit of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms.

The Goal is Not to invest in Carbon-Tech Startups, explains Nan Ransohoff of Stripe, which Controls the Frontier Fund, and will chip in more than a Quarter of the Fund.

Rather, the idea is to be Early Customers for the nascent Carbon-Removal Techniques, which can help meet the Buyers’ own Decarbonisation Targets.

For Early-Stage companies, the Fund will offer Low-volume Pre-Purchase Agreements.

For Bigger firms scaling up Proven Methods, it will offer Larger Contracts that pay Providers for tonnes of Carbon once these are delivered to the agreed Specifications. Suppliers can then use these Commitments to secure Financing and Expand Capacity.

“A billion dollars is a big number but not even close to big enough,” concedes Peter Freed, who Leads the Project at Meta. But, he hopes, it may “start a snowball rolling down the hill”. And, if all goes well, it will keep some Snow from Melting, too.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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