COP28 & Carbon Management: Carbon Capture Coalition Governance Board Q&A

February 12, 2024 | Blog

The Conference of the Parties (COP28), occurring in late 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, brought together more than 150 heads of state and government and thousands more from civil society to assess progress in addressing global climate change under the Paris Agreement. The meeting included the first ‘global stocktake,’ which provided a chance for countries to measure progress toward limiting warming to 1.5˚C, which is, according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, occurring far too slowly.

We asked Carbon Capture Coalition Governance Board members Patricia Loria and Ben Longstreth to share their thoughts on what the outcomes of the COP28 meeting in December could mean for carbon management.

Our questions and their answers are below. Patricia is Vice President for Business Development at CarbonCapture, Inc. Ben is Global Director, Carbon Capture for Clean Air Task Force.

Patricia Loria, Vice President for Business Development at CarbonCapture, Inc. (left) & Ben Longstreth, Global Director, Carbon Capture for Clean Air Task Force (right)

Q: There was so much often conflicting coverage of COP28 that the actual outcomes may have gotten a little lost. What carbon management outcomes did you think were the most important or will have the biggest impact? 

Ben Longstreth, CATF: The strong affirmation of the Carbon Management Challenge by a broad set of nations was a key outcome. World leaders gathered on December 5th and affirmed that carbon capture is essential to efforts to our decarbonization goals. The list of countries that have signed up to the Challenge and who spoke at the event is too long to list but it included John Kerry, Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency, Norway, the UK, Canada, Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya and China. The Carbon Management Challenge provides key recognition to the level of deployment needed over the next decade and is an important new platform for international cooperation toward that collective goal. 

Patricia Loria, CarbonCapture, Inc.: The global commitment to building a voluntary carbon market could not have been more clear. There’s universal consensus that corporations are willing to do their part in addressing climate through market mechanisms, but those markets, and the underlying credits, need to be transparent and verifiable. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to get to that point. 

I also applaud all the efforts that are going on at the country level around contemplating reduction versus removal targets. I think these initiatives are vital to ensuring that CDR (carbon dioxide removal) doesn’t become a scapegoat for slow action on emissions reductions. It was post-COP, but there does seem to be exciting news coming out of Europe regarding commitment to carbon removal – 75 million tons per year by 2040. That’s a good start, but we need to see even more action if we’re going to get to the gigaton per year level by 2050.  

Q: How do you think carbon management technologies were received at this COP? How did what we were reading differ from what was happening on the ground?

Patricia Loria, CarbonCapture, Inc.:  I think there’s a widely held belief that the oil and gas industry and the CDR industry are pitted against each other. But in actuality, a like-minded community of people from both industries are trying to solve real problems, not just point fingers. Perhaps more than any other industry, the oil and gas industry has experience in financing high-risk, large-scale projects. We will need their help, given the huge amount of capital that needs to be deployed into DAC projects over the coming decade. And we’re starting to see it—Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)’s commitment to invest $23 billion in carbon reduction and removal projects is a huge step forward. We’re going to need to work together if we’re going to grow the carbon management industry to planetary scale.

Ben Longstreth, CATF: Overall, carbon management was received well at COP. In advance of COP, there was extensive debate over COP and the role of fossil fuels; a debate sparked in part due to the location of the COP in the UAE. I think this debate may have made some participants less comfortable talking about carbon management and more comfortable talking about renewables or nuclear, so the carbon management conversation may have not been as robust as it otherwise would have been. But the industrial sector was an important exception. There was a strong emphasis on the need for carbon capture in the sector. For example, the Global Cement and Concrete Association held a series of well-received events on the role of carbon management technologies in decarbonizing cement.

Q: We know that there are no silver bullets in addressing climate change: we’re going to need all of the tools we can develop and deploy to ensure we meet mid-century climate targets. Do you think this COP delivered that message effectively? 

Ben Longstreth, CATF: Yes, I think the COP did emphasize the need for multiple tools. The commitment to triple nuclear energy capacity was a particularly important recognition that we need more decarbonization tools on the table. While not as highly elevated, there was a similar recognition of the key role of carbon capture, alongside renewables. The IEA’s report Credible Pathways to 1.5 Degrees, which highlights carbon capture as one of the four key pillars that must be advanced by 2030, also provided a key point of evidence on the need for multiple solutions at COP. 

Patricia Loria, CarbonCapture, Inc.: Yes, but we still could do more. We see DAC as part of an emerging carbon management ecosystem that will rely on a common transportation and sequestration infrastructure. Of course, communities have concerns that must be addressed, but we hope that the media can be more aggressive about sharing the science around the 40-plus year history of safe and secure CO2 transport and geological storage in the US and globally.

Q: How are you feeling about the outcome from COP28 – optimistic, pessimistic or somewhere in between? 

Patricia Loria, CarbonCapture, Inc.: Somewhere in between. While there’s a lot of good ideas, there’s still a lack of concrete action. Governments and companies have pledged billions of dollars, but it’s not being deployed quickly enough. I look around at a lot of great tech start-ups that might not last the year given widespread delays in starting projects. The global climate community and governments, including the US, needs to find ways to move much faster.

Ben Longstreth, CATF: The scale of the problem is daunting. No question about that. But I left COP optimistic that we are on the cusp of a real acceleration in carbon capture. The number of countries that have real plans for carbon management deployment keeps growing as does the number of companies offering carbon capture solutions. The potential for a sharp acceleration is palpable: As the early projects move forward, there are many more ready to follow, especially if costs fall through learning and shared infrastructure. We certainly need strong government support to advance quickly, but based on the interest from countries, carbon management providers, and emitters, the potential for strong and accelerating deployment is definitely there.