Companies should be forced to pay to remove carbon emissions from the environment to help hit climate targets, researchers said on Thursday.
To combat the worst effects of climate change, countries have to reduce emissions but also find a way of removing and storing CO2 – the most commonly produced greenhouse gas – from the atmosphere.
But current practices to remove it are costly and there is no universal system to foot the bill, researchers said in a new study published in the journal Nature.
They called for a new system of carbon taxes, debts and repayments with interest to encourage companies to act now to reduce their carbon emissions to save money.
The procedure would shift the cost of removing carbon from future generations to current polluters, say the authors of the paper. They said introducing the system would lead to emissions being regarded as temporary phenomena that are earmarked for removal at the moment of release.
Techniques to remove carbon include growing more forests and industrial processes aimed at capturing and storing carbon before it is released. But experts warn that technology is not yet advanced enough to remove carbon dioxide from the air.
The US climate envoy John Kerry came under fire in May after claiming that technology that does not yet exist would play a major role in stabilising the climate.
Scientists predict that the world is on course to be more than 1.5°C warmer than pre-industrial times by the end of this decade – and that a rise of 2°C would be catastrophic.
Under the 2016 Paris Agreement, about 200 countries agreed to create a ‘climate neutral’ world by the middle of the century by reducing emissions and compensating for the remainder by removing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.
But carbon removal requires a huge financial investment. The researchers from Austria propose making firms financially responsible for future removal through a tool called Carbon Removal Obligations.
“CROs will need to become an integral part of the global climate policy mix if we are to ensure the viability of ambitious climate targets and an equitable distribution of mitigation efforts across generations,” the report said.