• Ethics in Governing Negative Emission Technologies

    To reach the goal of the Paris Agreement to not overshoot 1.5°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, various countries have committed themselves to net zero emissions, for example the UK and Switzerland by 2050. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) – more broadly referred to as negative emission technologies – will to be necessary to meet these objectives. As the high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is driving global warming, CDR is a countermeasure: it produces “negative emissions” in the sense that carbon is removed from the atmosphere to an amount higher than the emissions produced. CDR includes efforts to increase the amount of carbon stored on land or in water in biomass by changes in land-use management for coastal areas (“blue carbon”) and land areas (i.e. afforestation), carbon mineralization (accelerated “weathering”) and ocean fertilization. In addition, there are more technologically advanced measures such as Direct Air Capture and Carbon Storage (DACCS), where CO2 is filtered from air and stored underground, and Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), where biomass is burned and the collected carbon stored away.

    As governance principles for CDR are much needed, the aim of this project is to identify the moral criteria for deciding the permissibility, preferability and obligation of states and individuals to develop and employ CDR. The three driving questions are: Under which conditions, if ever, is the use of CDR permissible? If weighted by moral criteria, is CDR preferable to other climate policies? And if CDR are permissible and preferable – do states and/or individuals have an obligation to employ CDR and to go net negative in their emissions? In order to identify moral criteria to answer these questions this research relies on the ethical debate about climate justice. The criteria will serve as the basis for defining principles for governing CDR.

    Collaborators: Hanna Schübel, Prof. Ivo Wallimann-Helmer

    Contact: hanna.schuebel[at]

    Duration: 2019 - 2023


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