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This is CDR Episode 14: The Carbon Removal Leadership Act

This Is CDR is an ongoing series of online events to explore the range of carbon dioxide removal solutions that are currently in development. Usually, that means talking about people...

This Is CDR is an ongoing series of online events to explore the range of carbon dioxide removal solutions that are currently in development. Usually, that means talking about people working in academia or in industry on CDR development. But this week, we’ve got a special presentation from OpenAir itself, about our most ambitious policy mission to date: the Carbon Removal Leadership Act (CRLA), a CDR-incentivizing bill we’re working to make law in New York State. 

OpenAir’s first bill, LECCLA, passed in New York in June, and versions of it have spread to other states. CRLA is our next step. Its goal is to help kickstart carbon-removal innovation in the state by creating a market for CDR companies to sell into. While New York has many supply-side programs (funding for startups and academic research, for example) to help develop CDR technology, CRLA would work on the demand side. It would require the state to procure increasing amounts of CDR starting in 2025. With a government-supported, guaranteed market for carbon removal, CDR companies would have stable footing to build on. 

CRLA requires 100,000 tons of CDR in 2025; 200,000 in 2026; and so on, ramping up to 61 megatons by 2050. These are ambitious numbers; the entire world delivered 50,000 tons of CDR in 2021, so for New York alone to deliver 100,000 tons four years from now is a lofty goal. But if we want to be removing carbon dioxide at gigaton scales by midcentury, we have to be ambitious. 

Luckily, we’re not starting from scratch. CRLA builds off of the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019. CLCPA mandates net zero emissions in New York by 2050. 85 percent of that will come from emissions reduction, decarbonizing power, transportation, and construction. The remaining 15 percent is considered “hard-to-abate,” and how to fill that gap is not well defined by the 2019 law. CRLA would create accountability, mandating that if you emit a ton of CO2 in New York state, you have to pay to remove a ton from the atmosphere – not through unaccountable “carbon credits,” but through actual measurable, verifiable CDR.

One thing CRLA doesn’t do is define a specific required form of CDR. This is because we want to encourage innovation and competition. That means if a small company finds a totally new way to remove carbon, they can still be an approved provider under CRLA, as long as they meet the standards specified in the bill. The bill goes into a lot of detail on those standards, but at a high level, there are four main points. Under CRLA, any state-approved CDR has to be:

  • Additional: It wouldn’t have occurred without CRLA.
  • Permanent: It has to sequester captured carbon for at least 100 years, and more durable methods will be favored.
  • Verified: It has to be measured and confirmed by a third party acceptable to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
  • Equitable: It has to deliver positive social and economic benefits, not harms, to local communities, particularly those that have borne the brunt of the fossil fuel economy for the last century.

CRLA has an assembly sponsor – New York State Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy – who will be introducing the bill into the New York State Assembly. We’re looking to have a New York State Senate sponsor soon, and we’re also working on versions of the bill in California, Colorado, Washington, Arizona, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. If you want to help CRLA move forward, please join our Discord! From contacting your representatives to bringing in other advocacy groups to just helping spread the word, there is so much you can do to help. 

Check out the whole This is CDR series on our resources page.

Peter Malamud Smith Peter Malamud Smith is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn.

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