New direct air capture industry body aims to build public support

A new organization has been formed to connect and mobilize companies engaged in the nascent direct air capture (DAC) sector and build public support for technologies that directly remove carbon dioxide from the air.

The DAC Coalition, which formally launched last week, counts 22 technology companies, as well as a number of investors, philanthropies and universities, among its members.

Setting out its priorities on Twitter, the group said it would be focused on “educating, engaging and mobilizing society to scale direct air capture in a sustainable, equitable and effective way.”

The group includes Climeworks, the Swiss company behind the world’s largest operational DAC facility in Iceland, and Heirloom Capital, the firm which recently clinched $53 million to support the deployment of an ultra-low-cost DAC process that captures and processes CO2 ready for storage in rock form.

“Our mission is to serve everyone in the DAC value chain across finance, business, technology, policy, civil society and academia,” the DAC Coalition said. “We will also work hand-in-hand with those in the general public, the next generation and frontline communities who have valid questions and concerns.”

Group co-founder and board member Nicholas Eisenberger told Axios in an interview the group would have a global focus and would engage with NGOs and civil society groups that have concerns about the equity and sustainability of the emerging negative emissions sector.

Scientists that make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned that rapidly growing carbon removal technology markets, including through DAC technologies, are likely to play a crucial role in stabilizing global temperatures.

But DAC and carbon capture and storage projects at industrial and power plants have historically suffered from relatively low levels of public support. For example, participants in the Climate Assembly UK initiative concluded that they favored nature-based carbon removal solutions over technological fixes, amid concerns the latter could prove unsafe, costly and could provide cover for continued pollution.

There is increasing innovation and growing support for DAC but no single org focused on accelerating deployment. We are here to change that and to serve as the dedicated platform for DAC education, engagement and collaboration.

Many environmental groups also remain wary of the nascent DAC sector, fearing that it could drive up the cost of the net zero transition and be used by governments and carbon intensive industries to justify continued investment in fossil fuel infrastructure. There are also concerns that the sector could struggle to deliver on its promise to soak up consequential amounts of CO2 each year. The world’s largest operational DAC plant — Climeworks’ Orca plant — captures just 4,000 tonnes of CO2 each year.

However, the DAC Coalition impressed the need to scale the technology to keep to the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming pathway recommended by climate scientists, arguing the goal would require a “massive mobilization” across carbon dioxide removal pathways, including through DAC.

As such, the group has pledged to serve as the “connective tissue” it said was needed to create a robust direct DAC market.

“Today’s DAC technology is emerging across a fragmented ecosystem and will require significant scaling at an urgent pace to reach gigaton-scale removal capacity in the timeframe demanded by climate science,” it said. “There is increasing innovation and growing support for DAC but no single org[anization] focused on accelerating deployment. We are here to change that and to serve as the dedicated platform for DAC education, engagement and collaboration.”

The group’s launch comes just a days after the US government confirmed it would be investing $3.5 billion in four direct air capture hubs, and just a month after Google, Meta, Stripe and Shopify launched a $925 million fund aimed at bringing carbon removal startups to scale and reducing the costs of drawing CO2 from the atmosphere using technology. It also joins the existing Coalition for Negative Emissions, which covers a wider range of negative emissions technologies and projects, including nature-based solutions that seek to expand natural carbon sinks

The DAC and the wider negative emissions sector are clearly building significant momentum, and now they have a new cheerleader. For supporters of the nascent industry, it is a development that could not come soon enough.

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