As the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) convenes in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the 198 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gather to find global solutions that mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, as well as achieve climate justice. Climate justice addresses the idea that “the historical responsibility for climate change lies with wealthy and powerful people – and yet it disproportionately impacts the poorest and most vulnerable.”1 Additionally, climate justice addresses the fact that the impacts of climate change are unequally distributed based on factors that include (but are not limited to) age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, and geographic location.
The first-ever climate justice pavilion will be debuted in the blue zone at this year’s COP, making it a relatively new concept for the UNFCCC.2 There has been an increase in support for industrialized nations to provide economic support to developing countries that experience “consequences of climate change that go beyond what people can adapt to.”3 COP27 will explore this concept (known as loss and damage), and other climate justice topics, to build on the momentum from COP26 in Glasgow.
Following COP26, the Direct Air Capture Coalition (DACC) is pleased to see COP27 place a greater emphasis on carbon removal activities. According to the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, carbon removals (in addition to emissions reduction) will be necessary to meet international climate targets.4
This year’s theme, “Together for Implementation,” has inspired some members of the DACC to collectively produce best practices for direct air capture (DAC) that work towards climate justice. In anticipation of COP27, a survey was shared with the DACC in which members could select the climate justice principles that resonated the most with their companies. While the following five principles stood out, this is by no means a comprehensive list of climate justice practices that should be included in DAC. Every DAC project is different and must be tailored to fit specific community needs. Stakeholder engagement is crucial to the development, implementation, and operation of DAC facilities, so that historically marginalized groups, frontline communities, and industrializing nations can decide what climate justice means for themselves within the context of DAC.
- DAC projects should offer co-benefits to the communities surrounding facilities
DAC projects are opportunities to create green jobs with fair wages and working conditions. A typical one megaton capacity DAC facility can generate around 3,500 jobs across the DAC supply chain and hundreds of jobs locally for maintenance, repairs, and operations.5 Additionally, DAC facilities often utilize pipeline infrastructure, which could indicate some overlap between new jobs within the DAC space and those that are incompatible with a clean energy transition.
Local environmental benefits can also be provided by DAC facilities. This includes local air pollution reduction through technology that captures both carbon dioxide in ambient air, as well as particulate matter. Additionally, brownfields can be cleaned up and utilized as sites for DAC facilities.
- The costs of DAC facilities are not borne by populations that have historically contributed the least to global greenhouse gas emissions
DAC projects should be designed to offer co-benefits to populations that are the least responsible for anthropogenic climate change. This places a greater responsibility on DAC companies to perform extensive due diligence processes in order to mitigate potential risks that would adversely affect these communities and have the opposite effect of any intended benefits. Additionally, project costs should be covered by the largest emitters as they should assume responsibility for their own emissions.
- Historically marginalized groups, diverse perspectives, and frontline communities are at the decision-making table through all stages of project development, implementation, and operation
Stakeholder engagement is crucial to ensuring that the voices that are often left unheard are amplified in DAC projects. Having these voices at the decision-making table can result in DAC projects that successfully address community needs and mitigate potential concerns. Additionally, it is beneficial to hear from diverse perspectives in multiple disciplines. DAC is a relatively new solution to addressing the climate crisis and it should include as many voices as possible.
- Monitoring, reporting, and verification are transparent, ensure additionality and durability, and offer a comprehensive life cycle analysis
DAC must offer real climate solutions and not corporate greenwashing. DAC companies should utilize trusted third-party verifiers that can attest to a project’s additionality or the emissions reductions that would not have otherwise occurred. Additionally, DAC must ensure that captured carbon dioxide will be securely and permanently stored. Lastly, a comprehensive life cycle analysis should be performed for all DAC facilities to ensure that overall environmental costs do not exceed environmental benefits.
- DAC facilities should utilize clean energy sources to avoid new pollution and to promote renewable energy production
In order to achieve net negative emissions, DAC facilities should utilize renewable energy sources like geothermal, wind, and solar. By utilizing renewable sources of energy to power facilities, DAC can form partnerships with renewable energy developers to promote clean energy in new markets, potentially bringing clean and affordable energy to communities that have struggled with low access to electricity or high energy cost burdens. Additionally, DAC facilities can support existing renewable energy facilities as long-term offtakers and help increase their renewable load by utilizing transmission-constrained resources.
*The views expressed in this article do not 100% reflect the views and positions of every single member company and partner organization of the Direct Air Capture Coalition.
1 Gabbatiss, J. & Tandon, A. “In-depth Q&A: What is ‘climate justice’?” CarbonBrief. https://www.carbonbrief.org/in-depth-qa-what-is-climate-justice/ (2021).
2 “Environmental Justice Groups Debut First-Ever Climate Justice Pavilion at COP27.” Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. https://www.dscej.org/the-latest/environmental-justice-groups-debut-first-ever-climate-justice-pavilion-at-cop27 (2022).
3 Bhandari, P., Warszawski, N., Cogan, D., & Gerholdt, R. “What Is ‘Loss and Damage’ from Climate Change? 6 Key Questions, Answered.” World Resources Institute. https://www.wri.org/insights/loss-damage-climate-change (2022).
4 IPCC, 2022: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, R. Slade, A. Al Khourdajie, R. van Diemen, D. McCollum, M. Pathak, S. Some, P. Vyas, R. Fradera, M. Belkacemi, A. Hasija, G. Lisboa, S. Luz, J. Malley, (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926.001
5 Larsen, J., Herndon, W. & Hiltbrand, G. “Capturing new jobs and new business: Growth opportunities from direct air capture scale-up.” Rhodium Group Capturing New Jobs and New Business: Growth Opportunities from Direct Air Capture Scale-Up | Rhodium Group (2020).