Oliver Geden, Stefan Schäfer

“Negative Emissions”: A Challenge for Climate Policy

SWP Comment 2016/C 53, December 2016, 4 Pages

The objective of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes that these targets cannot be reached through conventional mitigation measures alone. The IPCC assumes that in addition to reducing emissions, technologies for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere will become indispensable. The preferred technology option combines increased use of bio-energy with the capture and storage of carbon dioxide. To date, climate policy has largely ignored the necessity for “negative emissions” to achieve the temperature targets set out in the Paris Agreement. Discussions on the underlying model assumptions, potentials and risks of imaginable technological options, as well as their political implications, are only just beginning. It would be wise for the EU and Germany to proactively shape this debate and increase funding for research and development. If the Paris climate objectives are upheld, climate policy pioneers will soon be facing calls to set emission-reduction targets of much more than 100 percent – a notion that today seems paradoxical, but may soon become reality.

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