It’s time to give carbon removal a chance | Climate Crisis

In 2015, I visited Fiji, Kiribati and Tuvalu, which had just been hit by a hurricane. There I learned a slogan — “1.5 to survive” — referring to the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold for global warming that, in theory, would be avoided. harmful consequences. People living on islands in the Pacific are well aware of the serious threat to humanity posed by climate change.

Six months later, I met these new comrades again at the climate talks in Paris. While speaking at an event, I mentioned “1.5 to survive”. I see people shaking their heads. They told me their tagline had changed. Now it’s “1.5, we can survive”.

This was the sad reality of seven years ago. It is even more so today. World leaders are gathering in United Nations climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh. It’s time for them to act. This means rapid reductions in emissions through transition routes.

However, since we have delayed emissions reductions for so long, it also means taking action to restore the climate system and remove the existing carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution that has caused harm. serious. Leaders must act to accelerate research into carbon dioxide removal strategies and enact equitable policy frameworks to ensure impacted communities are guided and in possession of solutions. This work can occur at the same time as important mitigation work.

significantly 1.2C (2.2F) heats up what we are experiencing, compared to pre-industrial times, is destroying lives and livelihoods, making many parts of our world uninhabitable. These dire effects are felt especially in the Southern Hemisphere, where those who make insignificant contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are paying the first and most brutal costs.

The leaders of the world’s most powerful nations and corporations have chosen to ignore pleas, with half-hearted responses that fail to deliver the scale and speed needed. Millions of people stand on the brink.

enter remove carbon dioxide. While I wish we had acted early enough through emissions reductions that there was no need to eliminate carbon dioxide, I now realize that these strategies must be part of the climate solution. Science agrees. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the global scientific body that informs the United Nations about climate change – says we must removed between 100 and 1,000 gigatons of CO2 accumulate in our atmosphere this century, even if we also pursue all other decarbonization pathways.

Apparently, just a decade ago, supporting carbon removal was unthinkable for activists like me. Many people, myself included, think these strategies will be an excuse for the fossil fuel industry to avoid taking action.

Today, while there is a global consensus that we need to phase out fossil fuels, we have no time to wait. Even if we stop emissions tomorrow, the problem remains. In fact, the choice between reducing emissions or eliminating carbon dioxide is the simple choice we don’t have. Instead, the communities affected are asking us to do both, urgently and fairly.

When considering carbon dioxide removal, I was apprehensive about the impact of interfering with nature. Getting rid of CO2 is largely a Global North-led effort in the early stages of the pilots, too — sometimes with exaggerated claims of effectiveness. These efforts often have inadequate levels of transparency and accountability.

However, the idea of ​​climate restoration – giving back to the earth as much or more of what we take away – is in itself perfectly aligned with ancient wisdom and indigenous knowledge, as well as the need of affected communities. Protection is step one. Cleanup and recovery is the second step.

Removal of carbon dioxide is also confused with carbon capture and sequestration – a technology and approach led by fossil fuel giants that failed to deliver on their promise to reduce emissions but have instead been used by these corporations to pollute more than. Consider Shell’s Quest facility in Canada, built with $1 billion in government funding, and Chevron’s Gorgon facility, built with $60 million in government funding.

We must not confuse the two. While carbon capture and sequestration allows the same bad actors that got us into this mess to continue emitting emissions, decarbonization represents a mindset that allows us to clean up our air pollution. concurrent contamination from fossil fuels.

In fact, there are many forms of carbon removal. Some are based on nature, or, what some call “re-wild”. These solutions include planting trees, restoring mangroves, growing seaweed or growing algae blooms in the ocean. There are also many technological solutions that claim to enhance and accelerate natural processes and bring them to a larger scale.

For all solutions, whether natural or technological, it is important that we accelerate science-led research transparently and responsibly. All risks must be considered, including those of inaction.

It is also important to ensure free, prior and informed consent on the lands of the communities concerned. Policy frameworks around decarbonisation – and especially those occurring in the Southern Hemisphere – should be developed to include systems by which solutions and profits from solutions are guided. and owned by the most affected communities. For ocean-based solutions, where land-based conflict is less likely, we must also ensure that the benefits reach affected communities globally.

Therefore, we must not only act urgently, but also act thoughtfully. It is our collective moral responsibility as a global community to move forward together. As my friends on the Pacific islands told me: “1.5, we can survive”. Let this COP be the place where we reset our ambitions of recovery and growth.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.

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