The Federal Offices for the Environment and Energy have jointly drawn up a roadmap for the expansion of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and CDR methods in order to concretise the path for Switzerland towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The roadmap was approved by the Federal Council on the 18th of May 2022. In the following is a summary of the most important statements from the perspective of the Swiss Carbon Removal Platform.
The roadmap discusses both CCS and CDR methods. CCS is a technical process for reducing emissions by capturing CO2 from exhaust gases, for example from the use of fossil fuels or cement production. The use of CDR methods, i.e. Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) methods, additionally neutralises unavoidable emissions.
Until the CDR and CCS infrastructure in Germany and abroad can capture, transport and safely store millions of tonnes of CO2, a lot has to happen – and it will happen in the next few years. To this end, the roadmap defines two phases: an initial pioneering phase until 2030 followed by a scaling phase. In addition, the roadmap refers to the strategic principles of the long-term climate strategy and current as well as planned measures in the areas of CDR methods and CCS.
The majority of Swiss greenhouse gas emissions must be avoided through behavioural change, innovation and substitution. According to the long-term climate strategy of the Confederation of January 2021, 5 million tonnes of CO2 are to be avoided by 2050 with infrastructures integrating CCS. The volume of remaining emissions from industry, waste recycling and agriculture that are difficult to avoid will amount to around 7 million tonnes of CO2eq per year in 2050 according to the Swiss reduction targets. These must be offset or neutralised with CDR (NET).
Source: Bundesrat, 2021 und Bundesrat, 2022.
The pioneer phase aims to permanently store around 500,000 tonnes of CO2 in Switzerland and/or abroad by 2030. In this phase, approaches can be tested, incentives set and the political framework created.
According to the roadmap, building materials such as concrete are the main options for the domestic storage of CO2 captured at facilities, because geological storage sites will not be ready for operation for at least 15-20 years. However, underground exploration is still pending – a national programme for this is in the works.
From 2031 to 2050, domestic CO2 capture will be scaled up in a targeted manner from 500,000 tonnes to around 7 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which the roadmap summarises as the scaling phase. For this purpose, the roadmap defines benchmarks of around 5 million tonnes of CO2 from fossil or process-related sources (CCS) and 2 million tonnes of CO2 from negative emissions such as biomass (BEECS). Domestic geological CO2 storage should amount to 3 million tonnes in 2050.
The theoretical indicative storage volume in Swiss demolition concrete through direct carbonation is up to 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year in 2050, although the practically realisable volume is estimated to be much smaller.
For CDR methods that do not rely on new CO2 infrastructures, the roadmap does not define any benchmarks. However, a mix of measures consisting of five elements should also promote their expansion: the sharpening of the legal basis, national and international cooperation, the promotion of innovation and the exemplary function of the public sector.
Due to the limited CDR capacity in Switzerland, 5 million tonnes of CO2 as negative emissions are to be covered primarily by DACCS at suitable locations abroad. Plant-based approaches are less suitable; the reasons given are the permanence of storage and possible conflicts of objectives.
CO2 from domestic point source capture (CCS and BECCS) should also be partly stored abroad. A CO2 pipeline network will be needed to transport the high volume of CO2; however, the international discussion on this is still very much in its infancy.
It is not primarily technological hurdles that hinder the expansion of CCS and CDR methods today, but rather a lack of investment security for the actors. The framework conditions should therefore first and foremost increase security in the investment environment so that opportunities around CDR can also be optimally exploited for the climate as well as for Swiss research and the economy.
In an early phase and until a functioning and mature market has been established, the need for government intervention should be examined in order to establish a functioning business model that allows the private sector to play a leading role in this completely new field of activity.
The CCS and CDR expansion should be financed in a way that is as fair as possible to the polluter. By the end of 2024, the Federal Council will examine concrete proposals and clarify the roles of the government, the cantons and the private sector.
Based on the targets of both the roadmap and the climate strategy, it would be important to establish separate targets for the accounting of emission reductions and CO2 removals (CDR) in the legislation to ensure that both are progressing at the required scale and independently of each other. In this way, confusion and misaligned incentives can be avoided.
The roadmap identifies important issues such as societal acceptance and equity and also emphasises their relevance in scaling up CCS and CDR methods. However, a concretisation of what this should look like in practice is still pending.
In addition, there is a need to concretise the measures for an acceptance-based implementation in order to achieve the goals set out in the roadmap. Further efforts and cooperation are also needed to clarify the role of land-based biological CDR approaches (e.g. biochar, soil and forest management, wood use, etc.) and to advance their implementation accordingly. Otherwise, the portfolio approach formulated in the long-term climate strategy is in danger, according to which Switzerland should remain open to technology when developing CDR methods and pursue different promising approaches in parallel.