What solutions do we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and how much do they cost us?

According to yesterday’s Ipcc (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on climate change mitigation, cutting emissions now (press release in Italian here), using renewables rather than gas/coal/oil, is much cheaper than removing them later, as shown in the graph below:

The fastest way to limit global warming is through renewables

Both Ipcc scientists and Iea (International Energy Agency) experts agree on this, although we will have to rely in part on technologies to remove the CO2 already emitted into the atmosphere to complete the path to zero emissions by net-zero 2050.

  • LEFT SIDE OF THE GRAPH -> options to mitigate climate change by reducing CO2 emissions, broken down by sector.
  • RIGHT SIDE OF THE GRAPH -> potential contribution of each technology to net emission reductions.

Why are renewables considered the most efficient?

Building a new wind farm or photovoltaic plant, in almost all markets, nowadays costs less than building a new fossil power plant and therefore the related CO2 emissions can be avoided without incurring an additional burden.

How much does it cost to capture CO2?

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), which captures carbon dioxide emissions from industries and stores them underground, is inefficient and expensive.

However, the same Ipcc report states that large-scale carbon removal technologies will be ‘inevitable’ in the future if global warming is to be limited to +1.5°C, as required by the Paris Agreement, and net carbon dioxide emissions are to be reduced to zero.

One of the solutions available is DAC (Direct Air Capture), i.e. systems that filter air, directly capturing the CO2 it contains and then storing it in some way, for example in underground geological formations.

Iea published a report devoted entirely to this technology a few days ago. The report explains why investing in technologies to remove CO2 is not an excuse to delay emission cuts nor an alternative to renewables, but part of a package of solutions that will enable the development of a net-zero energy mix.

An example of a DAC plant is the one that went into operation in Iceland at the end of 2021.

This is capable of capturing up to 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in a year, equivalent to the total annual emissions of around 790 cars. A truly insignificant amount, when you consider that in 2020, total CO2 emissions exceeded 31 billion tonnes!

Not to mention the fact that removing a single tonne of CO2 with DAC is exorbitantly expensive at the moment, between $600-800.

This technology is still in the early stages of development and is a long way from commercial maturity; it will need to invest heavily in research and innovation, bring down costs and find market outlets for the CO2 captured.

In the meantime, it is essential to act, and thanks to renewables, it is possible to do so now.