Johan Rockström: We have to phase out fossil fuels and scale negative emissions

Negative emissions are necessary to get 1.5, but they are necessary as an additionality. We have to phase out fossil fuels and scale negative emissions. We cannot scale negative emissions technologies as a way of allowing continued burning of fossil fuels.

That means we have to start getting serious about carbon removals now. It takes a long time to develop the technical, social and political frameworks that can get us to billions of tonnes by 2050. It’s already an exponential journey to take us from zero today to 5 billion tonnes in 30 years – it’s such a rapid pace that we simply have to start now.

People fear, and many times correctly, that many vested interests will use negative emissions technology as an excuse to keep burning fossil fuels. So we need to discuss in the UNFCCC and in COP negotiations how to govern, invest, monitor and have compliance around negative emissions. We should take negative emissions as seriously as we take decarbonisation pathways.