Montreal protocol for ozone healing and carbon capture at Climeworks
Updated: May 26, 2022
Today’s edition is going to be a short one but hopefully it will be intriguing enough (editors have exams too - for those who don’t know, this newsletter is run by students at UMich to create more awareness about climate change).
What to expect today:
If you have any ideas on how to improve this newsletter then we would love to hear from you here!
When the world came together - and delivered
If you grew up in the 90s (no this is not a Buzzfeed article), you would remember hearing about the Ozone layer depleting and how the hole in the Ozone layer above the Antarctic is slowly going to expand all over the earth, we don’t hear that anymore do we? Why is that? Montreal Protocol - the only time EVER, the entire world came together and delivered.
Tell me more about Ozone depletion
During the 1970s, research indicated that man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) reduce and convert ozone molecules in the atmosphere and thus deplete the ozone layer. CFCs are stable molecules composed of carbon, fluorine, and chlorine that were used prominently in products such as refrigerators and it was discovered that these materials were single-handedly responsible for the depletion. Ozone is the layer in earth’s atmosphere which blocks UV radiation and in the absence of Ozone, this leads to increased skin cancer.
The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer is a multilateral environmental agreement signed in 1985 that provided frameworks for international reductions in the production of chlorofluorocarbons due to their contribution to the destruction of the ozone layer. The Vienna Convention provided the framework necessary to create regulatory measures in the form of the Montreal Protocol.
The Montreal Protocol, ratified in 1987, on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is the landmark agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). The Montreal Protocol phases down the consumption and production of the different ODS in a stepwise manner, with different timetables for developed and developing countries. As a result of the international agreement, the ozone hole in Antarctica is indeed but slowly recovering. Climate projections indicate that the ozone layer will return to 1980 levels between 2050 and 2070.
Historic moment indeed
To this date, only the Vienna Convention for Ozone Depletion in 1985 and the Montreal Protocol in 1987 are the ONLY two treaties which have been ratified by ALL countries and parties on the planet - all 198 of them. (for reference, the IMF, International Monetary Fund has only been ratified by 189 parties and the Paris agreement - 191) Due to its success, these have been hailed as one of the most successful moments in human history where literally the entire world came together - and delivered.
On Dec 3rd, 2021, Square, Inc. signed a nine-year carbon removal agreement with direct air capture company Climeworks, who will permanently remove 2,000 tons of CO2 from the air on their behalf. To achieve Square’s goal of becoming net zero for operations by 2030, the company is actively reducing its own carbon footprint and pairing this with a growing portfolio of verified carbon removal initiatives. Climeworks is its first partner for direct air capture.
Such long-term agreements are mutually beneficial for both parties, as Climeworks can more accurately project future revenue which assists in accelerating growth planning, while Square is able to assure it has access and price certainty for its long-term carbon removal needs.
How much is 2,000 tons of CO2?
Not much to be honest. 2,000 ton over 9 years gives us about 220 ton of CO2 removal per year. This is equivalent to the energy used by 27 homes in a year. In terms of comparing it to Square’s own carbon footprint, 220 ton of CO2 per year represent <0.1% of Square’s carbon footprint which is 247,000 ton CO2 per year (98% Scope 3, to know more about Scope 1,2,3 emissions click here). However, this is the first announcement Square has made in carbon removal initiatives, nearly 30% of its target in the future to achieve net zero by 2030 is going to come from carbon removal solutions.
Climeworks was founded in 2009 by two co-founders Jan and Christoph who met in ETH Zurich. Climeworks’ direct air capture plants, powered solely by renewable energy, capture CO2 from the air and store it for future use. In Iceland, Climeworks’ storage partner Carbfix mixes the CO2 with water and pumps it deep underground where it reacts with the basaltic rock formations and mineralizes: the CO2 literally turns into stone. Climeworks’ technology is scalable and does not compete with arable land.
Recommendations from the team
Gift ideas - 9 climate friendly gift ideas
CNBC - Challenges of Carbon capture systems (17 min video)
Youtube Series - Seat at the table (S1E1 - 22 min)