A carbon capture breakthrough

The world’s climate goals are banking on the success of carbon capture technology, and one start-up has just achieved a major breakthrough. 

What happened: Yesterday, Climeworks reportedly pulled carbon dioxide from the open air and stored it underground, using a verified third-party process—an industry first—using a new technology known as direct-air capture (DAC), per The Wall Street Journal

  • Many of us have likely heard about carbon capture and storage (CCS) by now, a technology Canadian energy companies are relying on to de-carbonize the industry.

  • Unlike CCS, which captures emissions from a point source (like a smoke stack at an energy plant), DAC can capture carbon from anywhere.  

Companies like Microsoft, Shopify, and Stripe, have already agreed to pay up large sums for carbon credits (each represents one metric ton of carbon vacuumed from the air) generated by Climeworks to offset their emissions, so they can claim they’re becoming carbon neutral.

Why it matters: Removing carbon from the atmosphere is critical to limiting global warming to 1.5C (now at 1C), according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report—at the current rate of emissions, the Earth has an estimated runway of 10 years before hitting it. 

Bottom line: While companies like Climeworks AG are hoping for a future where people pay for carbon removal like how they pay for trash collection, the technology still has a ways to go before it can make a meaningful contribution to reducing emissions at scale.