Over the last five years, more than 80 countries have committed to reaching “net-zero” emissions by mid-century. This means reducing emissions and, in some cases, scaling up carbon removal so the sum of emissions and removals equals zero. When setting out to achieve a net-zero target, experts agree that the most important step is for countries to reduce emissions as much as possible, as quickly as possible.
However, leading reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others affirm that keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change will very likely require scaling up carbon removal capacity, which can come through both natural and technological approaches. Estimates indicate that globally we may need to remove up to 10 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year by mid-century — that’s equivalent to the volume of 4,000,000 Olympic swimming pools.
So, what are these carbon removal techniques and to what extent are countries counting on them as they progress toward their long-term climate goals?
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