/ No climate neutrality without negative emissions


Negative emission technologies (NETs) are absolutely essential to the achievement of climate neutrality. Researchers have investigated options for their step-by-step integration in the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and published their results in the ‘Negative Emissions in the European Emissions Trading System’ report for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. The research team included Dr Wilfried Rickels, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), Dr Oliver Geden, German Institute for International Security Affairs and Professor Alexander Proelss, Hamburg University.

The EU has set itself the target of climate neutrality by 2050. For that to happen, new emissions will have to be removed from the atmosphere with NETs. NETs include technology to capture greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store them. However, there are also natural NETs such as moors and forests with a significant capacity for CO2 absorption. It is possible that, despite technological progress, there will still be unavoidable emissions in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors in 2050. Many experts are saying that greenhouse gas neutrality can only be achieved with NETs. So we have to develop a strategy today to ensure that NETs are financially viable and in use by 2050. At this time the technologies are still too expensive, and not enough value is attached to the carbon absorption capacity of the forests.

Our report contains valuable information detailing how greenhouse gas neutrality will be impossible without negative carbon emissions and why such approaches should be integrated in the EU ETS soon. The EU ETS has already achieved a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by capping overall emissions and selling allowances for CO2 emissions to energy and manufacturing companies. “Explained in simple terms, an emissions trading scheme incorporating negative emissions has the people who proactively remove CO2 from the atmosphere in return for certificates on the one side, who then sell the certificates to the people on the other side - the industrial enterprises - to cover their residual emissions,“ explained Wilfried Rickels from IfW Kiel.

This is definitely an interesting concept for forest owners. The forestry and timber sectors absorb 127 million tonnes of CO2 every year, which is 14 percent of total German greenhouse gas emissions. At the moment, they are not rewarded for this storage service. If forests were incorporated in the EU ETS, they could get tradable certificates for CO2 storage. This kind of a system already exists in New Zealand. The report findings were discussed at a joint event with the Family-Owned Agriculture and Forestry Business Association. According to Rickels, the development of suitable incentive systems for CO2 removal and the elimination of regulatory barriers allowing access to the most important climate policy instrument - the EU ETS - will be essential to the achievement of the EU’s greenhouse gas neutrality target and negative emissions by 2050.

/ Free Climate Protection

Underneath the world-famous skeleton of the brachiosaurus at Berlin’s Natural History Museum is probably one of the most unusual places in the capital city ever to have been the venue for a political education event. 130 guests arrived at the invitation of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s international office in Berlin to attend a discussion event on one of the biggest challenges mankind currently faces - climate protection - on 10 March 2020.

Professor Johannes Vogel, Director General of the Natural History Museum, impressively underlined the museum’s genius loci as a showcase of the winners and losers of various climate epochs, and warned of the necessity to conserve the planet’s natural resources.

However, the political departure point for the evening event was a petition sent to the Bundestag by two million private and municipal forest owners in Germany requesting compensation for their forests’ contribution to CO2 reduction. The idea sounds very simple on principle: If you put CO2 into the atmosphere you should pay, and if you remove it from the atmosphere you should be rewarded. It has all the makings of a market economy concept to fund the planting of new trees and the expansion of German forests. Yet, in reality, most people are unaware of the contribution that our forests make to preventing climate change.

// If we can put a price on carbon emissions we should also put a price on the reduction of carbon in the atmosphere.

Professor Karl-Heinz Paqué, Chairman of the Management Board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

A panel chaired by business journalist Dr Ursula Weidenfeld including the President of the Family-Owned Agriculture and Forestry Business Association, Max Freiherr von Elverfeldt, Prince Franz of Salm-Salm, President of the Saxony-Anhalt Forest Owners Association, Linda Teuteberg, Bundestag MP and Dr Peter Elsasser from the Thünen Institute for International Agriculture and Forestry discussed sensible approaches to turning this principle into policy.

the exhibition was well visited

/ Innovation Congress

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How ‘innovation fit’ is Germany? This was the central question raised at the 4th Innovation Congress hosted by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the Federation of Industrial Research Association and the Chemical Industry Association. It particularly focused on the use of innovations to reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions such as the use of green hydrogen or the commercial re-utilisation of CO2.

In his introductory keynote Dr Bernd Buchholz, Minister for Economic Affairs, Transport, Employment, Technology and Tourism in Schleswig-Holstein, emphasised that Germany can be innovative ‘if we want to be’. This has been evident during the pandemic, and the saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ has proven to be very true. The fast development of effective vaccines in Germany is a good example of the country’s potential for innovation Unfortunately, we do not always exploit that potential to the full, and research activities in Germany account for less than 3 percent of gross domestic product. This places Germany at a disadvantage in any international comparison of innovativeness. “Instead of talking about the opportunities associated with innovation, people tend to discuss the potential risks at length, as has been the case with 5G technology,” criticised Buchholz. This could ultimately result in companies relocating to more innovation-friendly countries.

There is great potential for the use of climate-neutral green hydrogen in energy intensive industries and the chemicals industry has set itself the target of climate neutrality by 2050. Dr Klaus Schäfer, Chief Technology Officer at Covestro AG and Chairman of the VCI’s Energy, Climate Protection and Raw Materials Committee, suggested that this is a genuinely realistic target. The chemicals industry is primarily focusing on electrification and the use of hydrogen to achieve decarbonisation. Annual hydrogen requirements are estimated at between 7 and 8 million tonnes.

Professor Julia Arlinghaus, Head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation said she believes there is massive potential associated with the conversion of energy production plants. “We need to build bridges between industry and science,” she emphasised. However, Arlinghaus also underlined that switching over to carbon-neutral manufacturing technology will be more of a marathon than a sprint. Power-to-X, energy recovery and energy-focused production planning and management are three of the most significant innovations in her opinion. Professor Holger Hanselka, President of KIT, Vice President of AiF and the Helmholtz Association and member of the Hightech Forum, also believes that Germany’s ability to innovate is a macrosocial issue. And this shift towards more innovation will require greater political backing. The scientific community is on the right track. It has already moved out of its notorious ivory tower and the German research sector is already very diverse. “Now we need more political courage and collaboration to encourage German innovations,” concluded Hanselka.

In his concluding remarks Norbert Theihs, Managing Director of the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI) summarised that the key prerequisites for innovation are in place, but we lack the necessary innovative spirit. He suggested that the best way to remedy this situation is to improve partnerships between industry and science and promote the acceptance of technologies that are intrinsic to any process of social change, from energy transition to digital transformation.