Negative CO 2 emissions - An analysis of the retention times required with respect to possible carbon leakage
Journal article, 2019

With present emissions the global CO 2 budget associated with a maximum temperature increase of about 1.5–2 °C will likely be spent within a few decades, Thus, it will be very difficult or perhaps even impossible to meet the climate targets agreed upon in Paris only by decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases. Scenarios presented in the IPCC reports accommodate for this by introducing so-called negative CO 2 emissions. The idea is that the cumulative CO 2 emission budget will be exceeded, but that massive negative emissions, especially during the latter part of the century, will remove the surplus of CO 2 in the atmosphere. A number of different Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs) have been proposed, including Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), afforestation/reforestation, altered agricultural practices, biochar production, enhanced weathering and direct air captured. However, many of the options proposed could be associated with carbon leakage which could compromise the purpose of negative emissions, e.g. storage in of carbon in growing/dead biomass that leaks to the atmosphere. Furthermore, it may be difficult to safely assess the long-term leakage rates. To reach the large negative emissions needed it is expected to require a mix of approaches having different expected retention times, and different safety in terms of leakage rates. Could the risk of leakage mean that we are just delaying the problem and transferring the problem to coming generations? The short answer to this is that it all depends on the leakage rates. Different leakage rates and mixes of leakage rates are investigated in the paper. For the case of a mixture of leakage time scales of 300, 1000 and 10,000 years and assuming that 80% or more was permanently stored, the contribution to the atmospheric stock was small, peaking at about 3 ppm CO 2 . It was concluded that leakage would not significantly compromise the benefits of negative emissions unless leakage is substantial and rapid. To quantify what could be meant by substantial and rapid, an example would be if 100% of the CO 2 stored would leak out at a rate of the order of 1%/year.


CO leakage 2

Negative CO2 emissions

Negative emission technologies



Anders Lyngfelt

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Energy Technology

Daniel Johansson

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Erik Lindeberg

Sintef Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research At the Norwegian Institute of Technology

International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control

1750-5836 (ISSN)

Vol. 87 27-33

Subject Categories

Renewable Bioenergy Research

Other Environmental Engineering

Energy Systems



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6/3/2020 9