A new report prepared by the NEGEM team at Imperial College of London Nixon Sunny, Solene Chiquer and Niall Mac Dowell, provides an assessment of the overall technical and commercial potential to deploy NETPs at the EU Member State level. The modelling framework utilized a multidimensional approach, incorporating a wide array of data sources, sub-component models, and analytical methods, considering both engineered and nature-based solutions, such as afforestation, reforestation, biochar, BECCS, DACCS, and enhanced weathering. The technical potential for BECCS was evaluated using a combination of dedicated energy crops from marginal agricultural land. Similarly, the overall afforestation potential was estimated based on areas with reforestation potential.
The findings suggest that the EU member states, and the UK have approximately 100 Gt CO2,eq. potential to meet a CDR removal quota in line with an IPCC P3 trajectory. This is obtained by a combination of BECCS (67 Gt CO2,eq by 2100) and afforestation (33 Gt CO2,eq. by 2100). The use of BECCS with agricultural and forestry residues would increase this figure and may hold the greatest potential in states such as Finland.
The deployment of biochar could provide a CDR potential of 4.08 Gt CO2,eq by 2100, which could be improved with an increased use of the derivative bio-oils and gases in applications with CCS.
Enhanced weathering could offer a very substantial potential (80 Gt CO2,eq by 2100 assuming the use of basalt with a weathered fraction of at least 5% over 80 years), although this is limited by the number of mining facilities and the weathering rates over time.
A cost-optimal NETP portfolio is mostly comprised of BECCS (73%), afforestation (20%), biochar (5%), and enhanced weathering (2%). However, this solution would use approximately 60% of the EU’s overall CO2 storage capacity, which leaves only 40% of available capacity for hard-to-abate mitigation activities.
This highlights that the capacity to deliver higher CO2 removal quotas in the EU will be mainly constrained by CO2 storage availability, as opposed to technology supply or build rate constraints.
If the EU were to take a share of the overall CO2 removal quota that is in line with its capability to finance investment, the overall NETP deployment quota by 2100 will increase to approximately 192 Gt CO2 eq. However, higher removal quotas will likely necessitate the deployment of technologies such as DACCS or enhanced weathering, at a higher cost than BECCS and afforestation, yet they would still be constrained by the limitations in CO2 storage capacity.
Overall, the assessment highlights the vast NETP potential offered by several EU Member States, although not all states have enough indigenous resources to meet their own removal quotas. An appropriate portfolio needs to be developed at the EU level to have a minimal negative impact on the planetary boundaries, while simultaneously promoting sustainable development goals.
These findings also underscore the significance of cross-border collaboration and the development of supportive policy frameworks to effectively implement these technologies. Cross-border collaboration can help address challenges such as the availability of CO2 storage capacities (European regions such as Norway) may offer additional CO2 storage potential, limited supply of energy-dedicated crops, and suitable areas for afforestation.
Scenario-based analysis and uncertainty assessments are needed to appropriately contextualise these findings for effective policy development, this is part of ongoing research within NEGEM project that will be addressed in an extended article in the coming months.