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Key UN climate panel casts doubt on future of carbon removal tech

An influential climate panel tasked with guiding the creation of a new global carbon market has sparked widespread concern in the nascent carbon removal industry, after it cast doubt on whether it would be counted as a carbon offset.

The draft includes a technical note that states that "Engineered carbon removal activities... do not contribute to sustainable development," and fail to serve the goals of the carbon market under the Paris Agreement. The proposal, which is not formally approved yet, also calls carbon removal solutions "Technologically and economically unproven, especially at scale," and says the technology poses "Unknown environmental and social risks."

State of play: The language has provoked a rapid and growing backlash from the carbon removal sector, with the open letter submitted Wednesday and other objections filed before the comment period ends Thursday.

In its most recent climate science assessment, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded removal is needed in order to bring global carbon emissions to net zero, and eventually net negative, while also slashing emissions from fossil fuels and other sources.

Ben Rubin, executive director and cofounder of the council, told Axios the UNFCCC panel's definition of carbon removal differs markedly from the IPCC's. Our thought bubble: One possibility for how the language originated is that the UNFCCC Secretariat, which provides text and instructions to the panel that wrote the language, may not yet have staff expertise in emerging carbon removal technologies.

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