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University of Edinburgh academics launch programme to find out how much carbon can be removed from the atmosphere

Sun 23 May 2021

Carbon capture and climate law

Experts in carbon capture and climate law are to play a leading role in a £30 million project to develop ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Two University experts will play a key part in the programme – the largest of its kind in the UK – that aims to help scale up techniques that could aid efforts to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Navraj Singh Ghaleigh from the Law School, and Professor Stuart Haszeldine from GeoSciences are part of the six-person leadership team coordinating the multi-disciplinary CO2RE project.

The five-year initiative will test the viability of techniques that have the potential to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Researchers will examine a range of methods, including tree planting, peatland restoration and using a charcoal-like substance – biochar – to store carbon. 

The project will allow for the first time large-scale analysis of the effectiveness, limitations and cost of the methods. About 130Million tonnes of CO2 every year will need to be removed in the UK by 2050.

The research team’s results will inform governments’ longer-term decision making on the most effective technologies to help the UK tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The project – led by the University of Oxford – will bring together a range of experts to tackle key issues including the environmental, economic and social aspects of greenhouse gas removal, as well as ethical, legal and governance factors.

Alongside their roles on the leadership team, the Edinburgh experts will also conduct vital research. 

Navraj Singh Ghaleigh, Senior Lecturer in Climate Law, will conduct work on governance, ethics and legal matters, while Stuart Haszeldine, Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage and Director of SCCS, will investigate policy and business issues.

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Stuart Haszeldine
A crucial part of reaching net zero is to use greenhouse gas removal to balance emissions with storage. We will examine the practical solutions and business models proposed from projects as diverse as tree planting, to making hydrogen, to recapturing carbon dioxide from the air. Helping these projects to happen faster, bigger and cheaper is our primary aim.
Stuart Haszeldine
Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage, School of GeoSciences
Navraj Singh Ghaleigh
At the most basic level, it is necessary to ensure that these new technologies and techniques are consistent with existing air, water, soil and habitat regulatory regimes. Social robustness demands that greenhouse gas removal is developed and delivered in ways that fulfil the rights of individuals and communities. The new greenhouse gas removal sector needs to strike a new path for the UK, not just in terms of our collective emissions profile but also to create more just and sustainable futures.
Navraj Singh Ghaleigh
Senior Lecturer in Climate Law, Edinburgh Law School