Accelerating Engineered Carbon Removal in California

December 16, 2020
Ethan Elkind, Ted Lamm, Katie Segal

California has enacted ambitious climate goals, including a statewide carbon neutrality target by 2045. While much of the required greenhouse gas reductions will come from clean technology and emission reduction programs, meeting these targets will necessitate new methods of actively removing carbon from the atmosphere and capturing difficult-to-mitigate emissions, including via technologies broadly known as engineered carbon removal.

These processes — such as carbon capture and sequestration from industrial and fossil fuel facilities, biomass energy production with carbon capture, and direct air capture of atmospheric carbon — can complement nature-based solutions but are mostly still in the early development stages. Proponents of these projects face significant questions about carbon removal capacity, duration of sequestration, optimal locations, support infrastructure, and long-term financing.

Given these open questions and the need to accelerate the build-out of carbon removal facilities in California, state leaders face an urgent opportunity to develop policies and programs that support rapid deployment, particularly of early demonstration projects. To address key barriers, researchers in Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment and UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment convened a group of state energy and environmental regulators, carbon removal project experts and developers, and advocates to discuss state priorities for engineered carbon removal deployment and policy needs to advance those priorities. Our report, Capturing Opportunity, identifies a suite of high-priority policy solutions such as:

  • Establishing a state single point of contact for engineered carbon removal project incentives, permitting, and oversight.
  • Identifying project and infrastructure corridors best suited for new development to conduct pre-permitting environmental, land use, and community review.
  • Developing CEQA guidelines specific to carbon removal projects.
  • Considering extension of and adjustment of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard’s carbon capture protocol to support project financing.

Download the report.

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