These are questions we set to answer in hosting our virtual event, “Collaborate, Mitigate, Accelerate: Driving Climate Action through Carbon Management,” where we featured a three-part interview series with Kim Stanley Robinson, author of The Ministry for the Future; Nancy Gillis, Programme Head of the First Movers Coalition at the World Economic Forum; and Jonathan Goldberg, CEO of Carbon Direct. Our conversations ranged from how to apply “near-future science fiction” as a theoretical lens to drive climate action, to cross-sectoral partnerships to stimulate demand generation for carbon management, to the state of the carbon markets and the regulation needed to ensure quality standards.
Bringing the Future to the Present
In the words of Kim Stanley Robinson, the time for dithering is over. Climate action has been spurred by both the very real, lived experience of climate change coupled with the pandemic. It has become clear in this time that carbon reduction will not suffice to meet our global climate goals outlined by the Paris Agreement. To limit global warming to just 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, we need to additionally account for both residual emissions (from hard-to-abate sectors like steel, cement, and aviation, to name a few) and historic emissions (dating back to the industrial era).
“We are still going to have too much CO2 in the atmosphere even as we flatten out our carbon burn, so CO2 drawdown is simply going to become a necessary industry,” said Kim Stanley Robinson in his session. Robinson added that we have the technologies available to us now, and that it is the question of how those technologies will be scaled and implemented equitably through the global economy that remains. Capital must fund green labor, Robinson asserted, and that labor must be equitable in the consideration of job creation and mitigation of climate risk.
First Movers Coalition: Accelerating the Demand for Climate Solutions
Nancy Gillis of the World Economic Forum reiterated Stanley’s points in her reflection on the First Movers Coalition theory of change. “What we’re trying to do is make these technologies commercially available by reducing a price premium,” said Gillis. “And one way to do so is to show that there is a market for them, and that is what the FMC is trying to do: leverage the purchasing power of companies as a demand function.”
This is particularly critical for carbon removal as one of the sectors added to the charter of the First Movers Coalition during the World Economic Forum at Davos in May 2022, a sector of which Carbon Direct is an Implementation Partner. Gillis cited the most recent IPCC report that states that carbon removal is critical to account for the gap between the emissions that can be reduced and the residual and historic emissions that remain, which “makes carbon removal a true, necessary part in mitigating climate change.”
“If we don’t have these technologies by 2030,” Gillis reinforced, “we’re not going to have a prayer to get to these net-zero goals that we all talk about at the COPs by 2050.”
State of the Carbon Market: Report from the Vanguard of High-Quality Carbon Management
But not all carbon removal is alike, as Jonathan Goldberg, CEO of Carbon Direct, outlined in his session “The State of the Carbon Market.” To drive effective action that actually contributes to these goals, you have to start with the science – and that begins with effective carbon accounting across each vertical, particularly within the hard-to-abate sectors outlined by the First Movers Coalition.
“If you don’t bring technical expertise to the fore, you’re going to end up scaling the wrong solution – and wrong solutions don’t deliver the right climate benefits,” said Goldberg.
Quality and the standardization of that quality by regulatory bodies is imperative in the functional scaling of the carbon management industry. That is why Carbon Direct has partnered with Microsoft to develop the Criteria for High-Quality Carbon Dioxide Removal: to improve the quality of carbon removal projects and provide buyers with guidance on how to select quality carbon removal projects. And while corporations are primarily making their climate pledges and pursuing climate management strategies in a voluntary capacity, this may change over time with governmental actions like the proposed SEC ruling on climate risk disclosure, which would mandate those activities. And this all must be supported, asserted Goldberg, by a robust scientific framework.
Robinson concluded the event with a synthesis of the three sessions, reinforcing the necessity of carbon drawdown and the importance of both public-private cooperation and financing to realize carbon drawdown at the scale needed. He shared his excitement in the development of this new “lifesaver” industry that has accelerated over the past two years with organizations like Carbon Direct.
“Carbon Direct is in the right spot,” Robinson said. “It’s filling in the gaps with an effort to organize the very necessary work of carbon drawdown in all of its forms. I’m glad to know that the natural and mechanical means are on the docket for this new company, and my congratulations to all concerned.”
To learn more about Carbon Direct’s work with the First Movers Coalition as an Implementation Partner and how to work with us, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.