Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) refers to both nature-based mechanisms and geo-engineering industrial technologies intended to deliver large-scale removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. In recent years, governments and companies have redoubled their interest in CDR mechanisms. Increasingly, these methods are becoming a central part of states’ and companies’ strategies for emission reductions and for achieving “net-zero” by 2050.
However, CDR mechanisms should not be seen as a panacea to the climate crisis and only some nature-based mechanisms should be actively encouraged, provided that they are carried out in a human rights-consistent manner. This is because other mechanisms could pose severe risks of human rights harm, especially for people in developing countries, and possibly irreversible damage to the environment, especially if used on a large scale. In addition, most technologies are not currently able to produce substantive negative emissions and an excessive reliance on their future development could represent a dangerous gamble and an unreasonable delay to the urgent phasing out of fossil fuels.