The world’s first carbon-removal marketplace, Puro.earth, has been commercially launched today, offering businesses a way to reach net-zero emissions by buying carbon dioxide removal certificates (CORCs).
The CORCs — verified by DNV GL — represent a tonne of CO2 removed from the atmosphere by one of two methods, biochar production or wooden building materials.
While companies have long been able to offset their emissions by buying carbon credits, those credits have represented carbon that would otherwise have been emitted — for instance, through renewable-energy projects that avoid burning fossil fuels. CORCs are a type of tradeable carbon credit that represents CO2 actually removed from the atmosphere — so-called negative emissions.
Carbon removal processes may prove to be vital in keeping climate change below the 2°C temperature rise stipulated in the Paris Agreement, as global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise.
According to Puro.earth — a Finnish start-up launched by utility Fortum — the nascent carbon removal industry could grow to $300bn a year by 2050, removing ten billion tonnes of CO2 annually.
How it works
Businesses can buy up to 1,000 CORCs at set prices at the Puro.earth website, or negotiate pre-purchase agreements directly with one of the suppliers of negative emissions.
At the moment, Puro.earth offers three carbon-removal suppliers, all Finnish entities — biochar producer Carbofex, wood-fibre insulation firm Ekovilla and the wooden log house industry association, Hirsitaloteollisuus. Further suppliers and methods will be added in the coming months.
Biochar is a form of solid carbon produced by heating biomass — which has absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere — in the absence of oxygen inside pyrolysis ovens. The material is used to purify water and enrich soil, and is said to be able to store carbon for more than 1,000 years.
The CO2 absorbed by trees will be stored in the wooden building materials for as long as the building remains in place, a time period regarded as at least 50 years.
CORCs can either be traded or activated by a company, at which point the certificate effectively ceases to exist, and the business can be said to have reduced its emissions.
The marketplace has been beta-tested by 22 companies, with a further 69 companies, including insurer Swiss Re, buying CORCs in the pre-commercial phase.
The importance of CO2 removal
As mentioned, carbon-removal technologies may prove to be vital to limit climate change in the long run, with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) among several organisations to have publicly stated their importance.
“All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) of the order of 100–1000 GtCO2 [billion tonnes of CO2) over the 21st century,” said the IPCC in 2018. “CDR would be used to compensate for residual emissions and, in most cases, achieve net negative emissions to return global warming to 1.5°C following a peak.”
Puro.earth co-founder Antti Vihavainen says that its new CORC marketplace will help carbon-removal technologies attract funding and enable them to scale up rapidly.
“The climate crisis is getting worse and with our ecosystem of carbon transformers, we cracked a way to scale carbon removal globally. We have tested the marketplace and investors are using Puro prices as a de-facto reference price for [the] carbon removal industry,” he said. “Now is the time to launch it at scale. The climate cannot wait.”