UC Berkeley team receives funding to promote carbon removal

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The Center for Carbon Removal is an initiative of the Berkeley Energy & Climate Institute, which houses its offices on the fourth floor of Sutardja Dai Hall.

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A group of UC Berkeley researchers launched a nonprofit organization Monday to “clean up” the carbon in the atmosphere as an innovative solution to climate change.

A UC Berkeley alumnus, a doctoral student and an undergraduate student received $150,000 in seed funding from the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute to launch the Center for Carbon Removal. Based in Sutardja Dai Hall, the center aims to curtail climate change through carbon removal, or negative emission, a method to actively capture carbon in the atmosphere.

Noah Deich, executive director and founder of the center, called this method an “untapped source of innovation” that could bring vast opportunities for developing clean technology.

One type of carbon-removal technology transforms biomass — plants, grasses and trees — into electricity and fuel while capturing the emissions, according to Daniel Sanchez, campus researcher of negative emissions and doctoral candidate in the Energy and Resources Group.

“Carbon dioxide removal can complement renewable energy and enable even deeper emissions reductions,” Sanchez said.

In addition to addressing climate change, carbon removal also brings solutions to agriculture and energy issues such as soil-quality improvement, efficient cooking in developing countries and energy production from biomass, said Giana Amador, campus undergraduate and research analyst at the center.

Amador said carbon removal is a “no-regret strategy” that could bring together new stakeholders, such as agricultural businesses, into conversations about climate change and create a “win-win situation.”

The team hopes to start its early initiatives with the funding, such as building an online knowledge hub with information about carbon removal, hosting events, and conducting research and analysis to inform businesses and policymakers about opportunities and challenges in the field.

Amy Aines, CEO and founder of Damianakes Communications and adviser of the center, said it will be a “big challenge” for Deich and others to bring people together for a common purpose.

Deich said the lack of awareness of carbon-removal technologies has been the greatest obstacle to their growth as an industry, as well as a lack of policies on and government investments in carbon removal on a mass scale.

“I am confident that the society will … be able to clean up the mess that we have made over the past decade of industrial activity, and the way to do that is with these technologies,” Deich said.

Contact Yuka Koshino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @YukaKoshino.