Climeworks: combatting global warming by sucking CO2 out of the air

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Climeworks: combatting global warming by sucking CO2 out of the air

Interview published on https://lombardodier.lesechos.fr/ on 15 February 2021

There are two parallel strategies for combating the greenhouse effect and global warming. One is to tackle greenhouse gases (mainly CO2) by reducing them at source; the other aims to reduce the CO2 already in the air. Climeworks is opting for the second path. A solution recently adopted by Microsoft to help them achieve carbon neutrality. We talk to Daniel Egger, Head of Sales and Marketing at this Swiss company that “captures” carbon in the air.

 

How does capturing CO2work?

Simply put, Climeworks has designed “collectors”. These are machines that suck in air and filter out the CO2 it contains. Then the carbon dioxide is recovered in a highly concentrated form and then sold to companies to be re-used (to carbonate drinks, for example) or stored underground in a mineral form that doesn’t harm the environment. To achieve this, the gas is mixed with water and converted into a safe, white limestone rock via an underground mineralisation process involving contact with basalt 700 metres below the earth’s surface. The procedure has been perfected by the company’s partner, Carbfix. Their brand new site in Iceland can capture 4,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, equivalent to the annual emissions of 200-300 people in Switzerland.

Climeworks has designed “collectors”. These are machines that suck in air and filter out the CO2 it contains

Reducing CO2 in the air: a viable strategy?

Global carbon dioxide emissions rose 67% between 1990 and 2008. In 2018 alone, nearly 39 billion1 tonnes were emitted. Faced with an increase of this magnitude, reducing CO2 in the air is only one solution among many. It won’t be able to fix the problem on its own and we can’t stop at just capturing carbon from the air. We also have to change our habits and continue to reduce our emissions. In order to reach our climate change goals, we have to motivate as many people as possible. That’s why Climeworks wants to give people a way of reversing climate change themselves; otherwise the battle against global warming will seem too abstract and insurmountable. The company has put this commitment into practice via a technology that it offers to everyone: both to individuals and companies.

Faced with an increase of this magnitude, reducing CO2 in the air is only one solution among many… We also have to change our habits and continue to reduce our emissions

Combatting global warning at an individual level

Climeworks users- whether individuals or businesses - aim to remove the equivalent of the emissions that they find hard to reduce. For individuals, this takes the form of a monthly subscription that matches their lifestyle. The service is open to all and Climeworks takes on the task of removing carbon dioxide from the air on behalf of their subscribers. Businesses set their emission reduction targets and notify Climeworks of their unavoidable emissions, so that these can be removed from the air

 

Leading by example

Climeworks is well aware that it cannot claim to be reducing global CO2 unless it takes its own emissions into account. So the company has analysed the life cycle of its installations, from construction to dismantling and recycling. It reckons that each site captures and filters ten times more carbon from the air than it emits over the course of its working life.

Climeworks is well aware that it cannot claim to be reducing global CO2 unless it takes its own emissions into account… It reckons that each site captures and filters ten times more carbon from the air than it emits over the course of its working life

A technology that knows no geographical bounds

The Climeworks technology is still young. It is constantly being improved: of the 15 installations built in Europe (mainly in Switzerland, Iceland and Italy); the most recent have much greater capacity than the first installations in 2009. This is key as the newer installations are helping to a significantly increase the volume of air being filtered out thus reducing more carbon emissions. Their aim is to build even more and even bigger carbon dioxide capture units.

In order for this technology to be effective, there is no need for companies to be physically close to the collectors so it doesn’t matter where they are located. The presence of CO2 in the atmosphere is a global problem, as are the consequences. Thus we can all have a global impact on climate change. Climeworks started in 2009 and now employs more than 120 people. With the support of its community, it will continue to develop. After all, there’s a great deal at stake!

 

Ministry of Ecological Transition and Solidarity, Key Climate Figures 2021 (in French)

Wichtige Hinweise.

Die vorliegende Marketingmitteilung wurde von der Bank Lombard Odier & Co AG oder einer Geschäftseinheit der Gruppe (nachstehend “Lombard Odier”) herausgegeben. Sie ist weder für die Abgabe, Veröffentlichung oder Verwendung in Rechtsordnungen bestimmt, in denen eine solche Abgabe, Veröffentlichung oder Verwendung rechtswidrig wäre, noch richtet sie sich an Personen oder Rechtsstrukturen, an die eine entsprechende Abgabe rechtswidrig wäre.

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