The UK must push for engineered removal plants to be up and running by no later than 2030 while also delivering 5-10 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) of removals per year in order to get ahead of national climate targets, according to a report from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

As most industrial sectors work towards their net zero carbon goals, the report states that, despite efforts to eliminate carbon emissions, sectors such as agriculture and aviation currently have no available technologies that can reduce or prevent all emissions.

Given this disadvantage, the NIC has urged the UK government to invest in a strategy to ensure wide-scale facilities that work to engineer carbon removals are deployed by 2030. The costs involved in carbon dioxide (CO2) removal are high and the NIC suggests that polluting industries should bear the costs as opposed to taxpayers.

Eventually, it is foreseen that the government will be able to transition to a competitive market, allowing the new engineered carbon removal sector to generate revenues of £2bn by 2030, potentially in the tens of billions by 2050.

Speaking about the need for new technologies, John Armitt, Chair, NIC, said, “This is not a magic wand. Such technologies can never be an excuse to take the foot off the pedal when it comes to reducing emissions wherever possible, not least because engineered solutions are typically a more expensive way of doing so.”

“But the challenge of making up for carbon emissions from the toughest sectors, like aviation and agriculture, mean that we do need an engineered approach to removals alongside nature-based solutions such as planting more trees.”

To support such a competitive transition, the government will need to use policy mechanisms in order to allow engineering solutions providers to commercialise their process.

The commission has recommended a strategy for the government to follow, this involves a committal to deploying engineered removals at scale by 2030; removals must not reduce action on cutting emissions; an independent monitoring regime is put in place; the government must provide support for the first engineered removals plants to get a range of technologies to scale and polluters pay but vulnerable groups in society are protected.

In addition to this, there is a recommendation for the government to ensure the energy, water, and transport networks are prepared, as well as making sure carbon transport and storage networks are in place on time.

Armitt emphasised the advantage such measures will grant the UK, saying, “Getting these technologies onto their feet quickly enough requires the countries that are most committed to tackling climate change to step up.”

“It won’t be easy or cheap, but the UK has the opportunity to again lead the way, and potentially gain comparative advantage in a future global market.”

He concluded, stating, “While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs.”

“And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find.”

With the NIC being critical of the government, saying that the UK has often been too slow to delivery new infrastructure, these insights give the UK a chance to get ahead in a burgeoning sector.