Insights from Carbon Unbound NY 2024

Posted on
May 30, 2024
David Lourens
David Lourens
Head of Carbon Solutions & Procurement

I had the fortunate opportunity to represent SQUAKE at the annual Carbon Unbound conference held on 21-23 May in New York. This leading carbon removal business summit welcomed 400+ business leaders, investors, suppliers, technology providers, buyers and policy makers to discuss the future of carbon removal.

The heart of the conference was rooted in the old African proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together” established by the strong focus on the organisational collaboration needed to drive sustainable long term environmental impact. In light of this, I am sharing several key insights from the conference below.

Demand insights…

  • Symbiosis Coalition: Microsoft, Google, Meta & Salesforce joined forces to create the Symbiosis Coalition, an innovative advanced market commitment (AMC) for high-quality carbon projects!

  • SMEs are needed - Large credit buyers (eg. Microsoft) will continue to drive and scale multi-digit credit purchases, however, there is a strong recognition to enable small and medium buyers to both participate in the off-take of high quality lucrative credits and drive sustainable impact.

  • Aviation & CDR: Airlines have a growing desire for transparent, high-integrity CDRsolutions to address their residual emissions. They therefore require diverse credit removal project portfolios with an optimal balance between high environmental impact and low average costs to both mitigate their emissions and drive consumer demand for sustainable flying, respectively.

  • Transparency is key: Given the vast diversity and price discrepancy in the Voluntary Carbon Market, buyers are hesitant due to a lack of transparency, standardisation and clear guidelines across pricing and long-term contracting. This offers a great opportunity for suppliers, technology providers, compliance markets etc to drive simplicity and clarity within their jurisdiction of the supply chain.

Supply insights…

  • More than price - In addition to price, buyers are predominantly evaluating projects based on their potential to scale in a relatively short time frame, the MRV (Measurement, reporting and verification) implemented, project methodologies and co-benefits.

  • BECCS Momentum: BECCS (Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) is gaining momentum due to its cost-effectiveness, scalability, and established infrastructure for secure carbon storage. At the same time securing capital remains a significant challenge for both BECCS and DAC (Direct Air Capture) technologies, as investors demand proven models and clear policy direction.

  • Blue Carbon: Ocean-based CDR holds potential for carbon removal but faces delays due to both limited public awareness as well as regulatory obstacles.

  • Community Engagement: Prioritising community needs alongside carbon removal objectives is crucial for the successful implementation of projects.

The way forward…

In order to address both the challenges and opportunities expressed by both the supply and demand insights above, specific focus on standardisation through collaborative initiatives are essential for establishing standardised MRV frameworks and audit methodologies. Furthermore, advocacy for supportive policies and public support (eg. education campaigns) are vital for attracting investment and building trust. And finally, similarly to feeding a toddler, the Voluntary Carbon Market requires progress over perfection.

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. With our collective tools and ambition to combat climate change through carbon removal, let's collaborate to overcome challenges, drive innovation, and ensure equitable solutions for all.

If you have any questions, suggestions or would like to connect, please feel free to reach out to me.

David Lourens, Head of Carbon Solutions & Procurement