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Nature-based technologies best for carbon sequestration – report

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Nature-based technologies such as permanent plantings and forestry, as well as soil carbon had significant potential to sequester carbon to help Australia meet its climate goals according to a study released by the CSIRO.

The study, of twelve carbon sequestration technologies and the role they could play in helping Australia reach net zero emissions, was prepared by CSIRO for the Climate Change Authority with co-funding from the Clean Energy Regulator.

The technologies reviewed were permanent plantings, plantation and farm forestry, natural regeneration of native forest, avoided land clearing, savanna burning, soil carbon, blue carbon, pyrolysis biochar, geological storage (carbon capture and storage), bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), direct air capture (DAC), and mineral carbonation.

Co-lead author of the report, CSIRO Towards Net Zero Mission Lead Michael Battaglia said: “We found that nature-based technologies such as permanent plantings, plantation and farm forestry, and soil carbon currently provide significant potential; as does Australia’s vast geological storage capacity.

“Biochar, mineral carbonation and DAC also have significant sequestration potential but are associated with higher costs.

“Further research and development of these technologies is needed to bring down costs and increase national sequestration potential.”

While the report considers the potential for each technology, it does not analyse the impact of competition for land, resources, or energy between different technologies.

These will be important considerations when it comes to implementation, as it will mean realisable sequestration is likely considerably lower than technical and economic potential sequestration estimates provided in the report.

Lead of CSIRO’s CarbonLock Future Science Platform Andrew Lenton said to help Australia reach its emissions reduction targets, we will need to remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Dr Lenton said: “No single technology will get us there. An integrated and optimised portfolio of technologies will be required.

“A comprehensive integrated assessment modelling approach will need to quantify potential and feasible sequestration opportunities and to guide development at the national and regional scales.”

The report will inform an Insights Paper on carbon sequestration being published by the Climate Change Authority, which will help inform the advice to government on Australia’s 2035 emissions reduction target.

In the report, carbon sequestration describes the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere; and the management of existing carbon stocks, using natural or engineered solutions.

Climate Change Authority CEO, Mr Brad Archer said the study was the first ever stocktake of Australia’s carbon sequestration potential.

Archer said: “(IT) provides a valuable synthesis of the current level of understanding.

“It also identifies ways to improve the evidence base to inform Australia’s options for pathways to net zero and beyond.”

Picture: Climate Change Authority

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