UK Launches Research Program into CO2 Capture Technologies

The U.K. government is launching a £8.6 million ($11 million) research effort into developing technologies to remove carbon dioxide and methane from the atmosphere. It is believed to be the world’s first government-funded research program devoted exclusively to developing so-called “negative emissions” technologies on a large scale, which many scientists increasingly believe will be necessary to avoid runaway global warming.

The program, which will be coordinated by the National Environmental Research Council, will fund roughly 100 researchers at 40 U.K. universities and partner organizations. The scientists will investigate a host of so-called carbon removal initiatives and technologies, including directly extracting CO2 and methane from the atmosphere, installing carbon capture-and-storage technologies at fossil fuel-fired power plants, and enhancing the ability of soils to absorb carbon.

Scientists leading the four major research groups say that, given the continuing huge volume of CO2 emissions — currently 35 to 40 billion tons a year — it will be exceedingly difficult to hold global temperature increases to 2 degrees C (3.6 F) without deploying negative emissions technologies. One researcher told the non-profit group, Carbon Brief, that 101 of 116 scenarios for keeping temperature increases to 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels rely in part on negative emissions initiatives.