Limiting global warming to 1.5 ˚C will require more than just cutting CO2 emissions—it will demand the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. Avoiding and removing emissions are both ways to generate carbon credits to be sold on the voluntary carbon market. The goal of the market is to reduce overall carbon in the atmosphere; with companies generating credits motivated to emit less, and companies buying credits compensating for emissions in order to meet their climate targets.
The influence of the carbon credit market has prompted innovations in the cleantech world which reduce and remove CO2, in order to effectively participate in the market. CarbiCrete technology prompts the removal and avoidance of carbon emissions through the mineralization of steel slag in the production of concrete, with the potential to generate high-quality removal and avoidance credits.
A recent study by Sylvera on the decarbonization potential of engaging in the carbon market found that companies buying credits were, on average, cutting emissions 2.8% more than companies not buying credits, leading to the conclusion that “investments in carbon credits positively coincide with decarbonization rates.” The market today hosts different types of credits—such as nature and technology-based—bringing into question the most effective credit strategies for rapid removal and avoidance of emissions.
Nature-based credits are generated mainly from preserving forests, shorelines, grassland, oceans, etc. through refraining from damaging or deforesting these sites. In 2021, nature-based credits represented almost half of carbon credits issued, with the main benefit being the conservation of carbon which is stored in vegetation and soils and act as natural carbon sinks.
Projects that generate nature-based credits come from preserving at-risk forests and agriculture, reforesting and revegetating, as well as protecting coastal ecosystems. The World Economic Forum cited one of the largest forest-based emissions projects as having developed from “persuading local farmers to abstain from clearing virgin forest in return for selling carbon credits.” This project claims to have prevented the release of around 37 million tonnes of CO2.
According to Forbes, the supply of nature-based credits is limited due to the time investment required for setting up these projects. Moreover, evaluating the mitigation potential of nature-based solutions, World Economic Forum states that a “large gap remains between the amount of CO2 being emitted…and the amount of CO2 that nature-based solutions can draw down,” inciting the need to pursue multiple carbon reduction strategies to keep up with global emissions.
Compared to nature-based solutions, technology-based carbon credits are generated from a variety of technological solutions for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and emissions avoidance which help increase the efficiency of decarbonization. Direct Air Capture (DAC) is a “technologically intensive” solution by which CO2 is captured from ambient air. Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) is a tech-based solution where CO2 is captured from the process of biomass energy production and stored geologically deep underground.
Carbon mineralization is a permanent CDR solution, in which a chemical reaction traps CO2 into a solid state. According to Climate Now, carbon mineralization is the “holy grail” of CDR technologies, given there is “nearly zero risk of it being re-released to the atmosphere.” CarbiCrete technology uses this solution to manufacture CO2-sequestering concrete, thereby generating valuable tech-based carbon credits in the process.
Technology-based solutions for CDR can provide permanence in CO2 storage without much risk, given the nature of soil and trees to re-release CO2 from events such as wildfires. Permanence signals overall decarbonization effects, meaning carbon credits generated from tech-based projects involving carbon mineralization, for example, will be valued at a particularly high quality.
While both natural and technological solutions are crucial on the pathway to decarbonization, the urgency with which global emissions need to be cut and removed calls for the development of scalable solutions which generate effective, and high-quality credits.
CarbiCrete’s mineralization technology helps provides over 100% emissions reduction in concrete blocks compared to conventional concrete—making CarbiCrete CMUs a net carbon sink and demonstrating the measurability of technology-based solutions. Further, by replacing cement in the concrete mix with steel slag, a waste product of steelmaking, CarbiCrete technology avoids the CO2 generated by conventional cement-based concrete—cumulatively 8% of global emissions.
This innovation demonstrates a reliable way to lower the carbon footprint of a hard-to-abate industry backed by the efficiency and effectiveness of technology-based removal—representing hope for the future of a decarbonized global economy.