Strategies for the Evaluation and Assessment of Ocean based Carbon Dioxide Removal (SEAO2-CDR) project kick-off in Southampton

CASE experts, Dr Izabela Marcinkowska, and Karolina Zubel took part in the kick-off meeting of the SEAO2-CDR Horizon Europe project in Southampton on  in which CASE is leading the work package (WP) on governance frameworks.

In order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and keep the global average temperature increase below 1.5°C as set by the Paris Agreement, sharp reductions in CO2 emissions as well as active sequestration of carbon – as means of supporting mitigation endeavours – are needed. The ocean which covers 70% of the earth, is the largest long-term sink for anthropogenic CO2, and can store much more carbon than the atmosphere and the terrestrial biosphere. Moreover, measures to sequester carbon in the ocean will not compete with space on land. Therefore, exploring the potential of the ocean to remove and sequester CO2 is necessary and timely. Within the SEAO2-CDR project, we aim to establish and assess the evaluation pathways and methodologies required for sustainable and effective operationalisation of Ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal (OCDR). The National Oceanography Centre (NOC) is the scientific and technical lead of this four-year interdisciplinary endeavour coordinated by Uniresearch and involving 13 other organizations that will provide scientific, economic, legal, political, social, and ethical expertise.

Our new Horizon Europe-funded project will be delivered through three core themes that:

  1. Characterise the key system boundaries, processes, material, and energy flows of different ocean-based carbon dioxide removal approaches and establish their temporal and spatial monitoring requirements and mechanisms;
  2. Establish social, regulatory, political, economic, and ethical frameworks required to support OCDR uptake at scale; and
  3. Enhance our understanding of realistic implementation policies and pathways via an integrated assessment of system-level effects.

CASE will be working predominately on the 2nd core theme leading to the establishment of a coherent and socially accepted governance framework for OCDR deployment. In fact, social and regulatory acceptability is likely to be a barrier to many OCDR approaches, particularly the ones requiring industrial infrastructure. There will be both project-specific and approach-specific social, political, and regulatory discussions, as well as contestation around the role of OCDR broadly, hence a holistic analysis of these views and approaches is needed. These will include, among other, identifying the most urgent unanswered scientific and technical questions, as well as questions surrounding governance, needed to: (i) assess the benefits, risks, and potential scale for carbon dioxide removal and sequestration approaches; and (ii) increase the viability of responsible carbon dioxide removal and sequestration. This, in turn, will allow to meet the project’s overall objective of developing the mechanisms, tools, and guidelines required to ensure that ocean-based carbon dioxide removal techniques can be evaluated and implemented in a responsible and transparent manner.