Carbon Hunters: The Role of Companies in Climate Change Fight
STORY INLINE POST
Maybe you don’t usually think about it, but it’s a fact that the device you’re using to read this text, the coffee you drank at breakfast, the vehicle you ride to commute to work as well as the clothes you are wearing have an impact on the environment. From the procurement of the inputs necessary for their manufacture, to their transportation and arrival at the store in which you purchased them, the processes behind everything we consume results in polluting emissions.
This year alone, total global CO2 emissions increased about 0.8% and global CO2 concentrations reached a record 417.2 parts per million (ppm), 2.5 ppm higher than in 2021, according to the World Economic Forum. If emissions keep increasing, climate change could become worse than it otherwise would be.
As we grow as a society, so do our needs. This is why it is urgent to find ways in which we can counteract this trend for the future of the planet. Fortunately, more and more companies can now become carbon hunters and reduce their carbon footprint through technologies and innovations. Some of the initiatives that prevent carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere also seek to prepare it for permanent storage, an effort that holds promise for global emissions targets.
Carbon capture is one of the most promising solutions to climate change. The goal of carbon capture and storage (CCS) is to store carbon dioxide after it has been released into the atmosphere as a result of burning gas, oil, coal, or biomass. There are essentially two types of artificial carbon dioxide capture in use today. The first is in post-combustion processes, which separate CO2 from other gases and capture it, resulting in pure, storable carbon dioxide.
The second process is pre-combustion, which converts the fuel into a gaseous mixture of hydrogen and CO2; the carbon dioxide is then compressed for storage, and the hydrogen is burned without producing carbon dioxide.
Typically, following these methods, carbon dioxide is stored underground in places like depleted oil and gas fields, deep saline formations and unmineable coal deposits. The success rate of these processes is very high (up to 95%); however, it is harder and expensive to capture more carbon dioxide as a CCS system approaches 100% efficiency.
These carbon capture processes are mainly used in industrial facilities, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, hydrogen plants, steel mills, cement plants, power plants, and oil and gas refineries; industries characterized by their inability to decarbonize in the short term.
However, something to consider is that the implementation and massification of these solutions face economic challenges. Intensive investments are required to develop the necessary infrastructure for carbon capture, transport, and, of course, storage.
Research is also an important part of this effort — but it's not the only thing that matters. We also need to look at the processes by which carbon emissions are produced and reduced, and we should understand how they interact with other factors like public policy, economics, and technology. The more we know about how carbon emissions affect the environment, the better we can work toward solutions.
In addition, there must be close collaboration between the public and private sectors to accelerate the penetration of these alternatives. The public sector must create public policies that regulate the process from capture to storage, and fiscal incentives that encourage businesses to invest in these environmentally friendly processes.
Both sectors can also promote the recovery and conservation of natural areas that sequester carbon emissions, such as mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes. These ecosystems cover less than 0.5% of the world's marine area but sequester carbon at two to four times the annual rate of mature tropical forests and account for more than 50% of the total carbon contained in ocean sediments.
These habitats, which capture an amount of carbon equivalent to half of the emissions generated by transportation on a global scale, and the carbon capture capacity enabled by technology, could be the key to achieving the goals set out in the Paris Agreement: limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
In the case of Mexico, the combination of technology and preservation would allow the country to comply with the latest update of its environmental commitment made during COP27: to increase the country’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 22% to 30% with its own resources and a strengthened conditional goal of 36% to 40%.
Today, it is fundamental that companies and the government commit to actions that help curb climate change in a tangible way. Carbon capture can be a way to achieve it, but as with all efforts toward a greener future, there must be active collaboration between the private and public sectors. Our everyday lives and future depend on these alliances.