Jan Wurzbacher and Christoph Gebald are co-CEOs of Climeworks, which operates the world’s first large-scale direct air capture (DAC) and storage plant to permanently remove carbon dioxide from the air. The company now operates 15 plants across Europe, and recently received grants to build its first three plants in the U.S.
What is a climate technology that isn’t getting the attention or funding it deserves?
Gebald: In the fight against climate change, we often frame it as a choice between emission reductions and carbon removal technologies. However, the truth is we need both, and we need them urgently on a large scale. Decarbonizing our activities is crucial, but so is actively removing the excess carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. If a solution proves effective and lasting, there’s no longer room for an “either-or” debate. The climate crisis demands a “yes-and” approach. Carbon removal should receive the same level of attention in boardrooms and decision-makers’ agendas as AI because it’s a defining technology for our collective future. Funding must be unlocked accordingly.
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
Wurzbacher: Addressing climate change isn’t as simple as one powerful action; it’s a collective effort made up of many crucial steps. Governments must lead the way by enacting strict net-zero emission targets for 2050 and setting clear standards for emission avoidance and removal. But it’s vital that we, as the public, elect representatives who genuinely prioritize climate action through meaningful actions, not just words. At the same time, companies have a role to play by establishing and actively following transparent, science-based, and time-bound emission reduction goals. It’s a joint effort involving government, the public, and businesses to combat climate change effectively.
What’s the most important climate legislation that could pass in the next year?
Gebald: The U.S. Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are the most ambitious climate packages ever passed, positioning the U.S. at the forefront of green innovation. Climeworks is actively engaged in the U.S., also thanks to unparalleled government support. Notably, all three applications we submitted under the U.S. Regional DAC Hubs program were selected for further negotiation, marking a crucial milestone for us. In 2024, we will focus on advancing these projects, moving from a government initiative to real-world implementation.
Wurzbacher: The E.U. will propose its 2040 climate targets next year, potentially cementing its role as one of the leading global blocks in climate ambition, which could inform and accelerate worldwide action. We’re hopeful for a distinct target for carbon dioxide removal, not just reductions, recognizing that the world needs both, and their complementarity is crucial.
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