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The Top 10 Carbon articles everyone should read in 2024

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By illuminem

· 8 min read

Out of popular demand, we present our curated new version of 'Top 10 essential carbon articles', now for 2024 and as part of our Carbon Academy.

At illuminem, we take pride in calling ourselves the "Home" of Sustainability and support our community with quality information and resources to improve our climate knowledge and stay updated on the latest sustainability developments. 

So, why is it important to understand carbon and its markets? To address the environmental crisis driven by carbon emissions, a firm grasp of the debate is essential. This understanding serves as a foundation for crafting effective business strategies and government policies. This comprehensive list encapsulates key aspects of the carbon debate in 2024: carbon credit integrity, 'phantom credits', carbon pricing, carbon policy, 'green grabbing', and the effectiveness of the carbon market in saving the climate.


1. The state of carbon dioxide removal — edition 2 

Source: The State of Carbon Dioxide Removal
Date: June 2024
Knowledge level: Professional 🧠

The 2024 State of Carbon Dioxide Removal report, led by the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, finds that 7–9 billion tonnes of CO2 must be removed annually by mid-century to meet the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target. Despite current CDR efforts removing just 2 billion tonnes annually, primarily through tree planting, novel methods like biochar and direct air carbon capture contribute minimally. The report stresses the urgent need to scale up diverse CDR methods, noting that CDR companies' high ambitions lack credibility without stronger policies. Dr. Steve Smith emphasizes the necessity for increased investment and integration of CDR into national climate plans to meet global temperature goals.


2. What’s plaguing voluntary carbon markets?

Source: CSIS | Allegra Dawes
Date: February 2024
Knowledge level: Professional 🧠

Dawes’ article highlights the current challenges and potential of voluntary carbon markets. It details how, despite the initial momentum in early 2023, these markets struggled due to credibility issues and accusations of greenwashing. High-profile studies revealed systemic problems with nature-based carbon credits, leading to a decline in corporate participation. Dawes argues that without standardization and clear guidelines, these markets risk being ineffective. However, promising developments, such as regulatory oversight, alignment of standards, and increased government involvement, offer hope for reform. The article urges for better infrastructure and transparency to ensure that voluntary carbon markets can effectively contribute to climate mitigation.


3. Why investing in carbon removal can’t wait

Source: illuminem | Leila Toplic, Sebastian Manhart
Date: March 2024
Knowledge level: Intermediate 🏭

The climate crisis demands urgent and coordinated action, as 2023 was the hottest year on record, with temperatures exceeding critical thresholds. Despite record fossil fuel emissions, we have a tight timeline to address both historical and hard-to-abate emissions. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is essential, with IPCC scenarios requiring up to 10Gt of CO2 removed annually by 2050 to stay within safe warming limits. Scaling CDR to this level involves boosting corporate demand, fostering innovation, and implementing robust policy support. Successful CDR scaling will require a combination of industry growth, technological advancements, and substantial government involvement.


4. Making sense of the ‘green grabbing’ debate

Source: Financial Times
Date: May 2024
Knowledge level: Intermediate 🏭

The term ‘green grabbing’ refers to the acquisition of land for environmentally friendly purposes that can negatively affect local communities, particularly those without formal land rights. Research in Brazil shows that renewable energy projects have sometimes resulted in communities losing access to land used for generations. However, some companies are managing these investments responsibly by leasing land and sharing revenue with landowners, while respecting non-landowner users. Concerns also extend to carbon removal schemes, which require large amounts of land and may impact food production and local agricultural communities.


5. The Oxford offsetting principles 

Source: University of Oxford
Date: February 2024
Knowledge level: Intermediate 🏭

The revised Oxford Offsetting Principles update the guidelines for carbon markets, emphasizing emission reductions, ensuring the integrity of carbon credits, and carbon removal to achieve net-zero goals. The significance of renewable energy and energy efficiency in reducing emissions is also clearly highlighted. Other co-authors stress the need for correcting market failures, the value of both geological and nature-based carbon storage, and the necessity of high-quality avoided emission offsets. They call for regulation to steer the market towards high-quality offsets and embedding climate action into policy.


6. Biden administration issues guidelines on carbon credit integrity

Source: The Hill | Rachel Frazin
Date: May 2024
Knowledge level: Beginner 💨

The Biden administration has introduced new guidelines to ensure the credibility of carbon credits, aiming to improve the voluntary market's integrity. These credits, used to offset emissions and achieve net-zero goals, have faced issues like double counting and questionable effectiveness. The guidelines require credits to represent real, additional, and permanent CO2 reductions, validated by an independent third party. Corporate purchasers must also reduce their own emissions and disclose credit details. National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen highlighted the need for real emissions reductions and guardrails to prevent negative impacts, noting past market failures and a commitment to improvement.


7. Practical effects of carbon emissions trading system on energy efficiency

Source: Nature
Date: January 2024
Knowledge level: Professional 🧠

Global carbon dioxide emissions related to energy use hit a record high of 36.8 Gt in 2022, with China responsible for a third of this total. The Chinese government aims to decouple carbon emissions from energy use by enhancing energy efficiency rather than merely reducing total energy consumption. This goal is critical as developed nations have shown that energy use and carbon emissions do not always increase in tandem. Since 2013, China has piloted a carbon emissions trading system (CETS) in several provinces, expanding it nationally in 2021. The study finds that 31.4% of carbon emissions reduced through energy efficiency improvements rebounded in pilot provinces, indicating that CETS has yet to realize its full carbon reduction potential.


8. Carbon markets 2.0 a new paradigm

Source: illuminem | Bashir Dan
Date: March 2024
Knowledge Level: Intermediate 🏭

Carbon Markets 2.0 envisions a world where greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are balanced by equal reductions or removals, reflecting the true cost of climate change and promoting effective solutions. However, current carbon markets are hindered by misaligned supply and demand, varying credit quality, and a lack of robust standards. To address these challenges, Carbon Markets 2.0 proposes clear guidance, quality benchmarks, enhanced transparency, and government support. Stakeholders like project developers, buyers, sellers, intermediaries, and governments each have roles in implementing this new paradigm. By adopting Carbon Markets 2.0, carbon markets will shift towards the transition to net-zero emissions.


9. World’s largest air capture plant opens in Europe. Is it really a ‘misguided scientific experiment’?

Source: Euronews
Date: May 2024
Knowledge level: Intermediate 🏭

Climeworks has launched the Mammoth direct air capture and storage (DAC+S) plant in Iceland, which is ten times larger than its previous plant, Orca, and is located in the Hellisheidi geothermal park. This plant, using geothermal power, can remove up to 36,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. Climeworks aims to reach megaton capacity by 2030 and gigaton capacity by 2050. The process involves using fans to draw CO2 into a collector, which is then mixed with water and injected deep underground, where it mineralizes into stone. Critics argue that while DAC has potential, it is not a substitute for significant emission reductions and poses challenges like high costs and water usage. Climeworks plans to scale up its technology globally, with projects in the US, Norway, Kenya, and Canada, aiming to reduce costs to $400-600 per tonne by 2030.


10. New meta-study confirms the effectiveness of carbon pricing

Source: Carbon Herald | Sasha Ranevska
Date: May 2024
Knowledge level: Intermediate 🏭

A study led by the climate research institute MCC in Berlin finds that carbon pricing systems have cut emissions by 5% to 21% in their early years, marking a significant step in global climate policy. The study, published in Nature Communications, provides the most comprehensive analysis to date. The research highlights significant emission reductions in Chinese provinces due to proactive policy approaches and low CO2 avoidance costs, emphasizing that the method of carbon pricing—whether through trading or tax—is less critical than political debates suggest. The study underscores the need for more empirical research to understand the full impact of carbon pricing systems.


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