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‘Polluter pays’ policy could speed up emission reductions and removal of atmospheric CO2
To meet climate targets, technologies that remove atmospheric carbon dioxide will probably be needed. An analysis shows how their development and use could be accelerated if carbon emitters are obliged to remove their own CO2.
David A. Stainforth is at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2A 2AE, UK, and in the Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Warwick, UK.
The 2015 Paris agreement on climate change set a goal of limiting global warming to 2 °C, or preferably 1.5 °C, above pre-industrial levels. Achieving either of these targets is expected to require not just reductions in carbon emissions, but also technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Writing in Nature, Bednar et al.1 explore policy mechanisms that support the development and implementation of such technologies. They propose an emissions-trading scheme that provides permits for emissions consistent with a specific global-warming goal, but that allows further emissions as long as the emitter commits to removing the extra carbon later on. The authors argue that emitters should be charged for the temporary ‘storage’ of this carbon in the atmosphere. They show that this would lead both to earlier reductions in carbon emissions (decarbonization) and to earlier application of CO2-removal technologies than would otherwise occur.