Issue 4, 2019

When are negative emissions negative emissions?


Negative emission technologies (NETs) have seen a recent surge of interest in both academic and popular media and have been hailed as both a saviour and false idol of global warming mitigation. Proponents hope NETs can prevent or reverse catastrophic climate change by permanently removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. But there is currently limited agreement on what “negative emissions” are. This paper highlights inconsistencies in negative emission accounting in recent NET literature, focusing on the influence of system boundary selection. A quantified step-by-step example provides a clear picture of the impact of system boundary choices on the estimated emissions of a NET system. Finally, this paper proposes a checklist of minimum qualifications that a NET system and its emission accounting should be able to satisfy to determine if it could result in negative emissions.

Graphical abstract: When are negative emissions negative emissions?

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
13 Nov 2018
20 Feb 2019
First published
20 Feb 2019
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Energy Environ. Sci., 2019,12, 1210-1218

When are negative emissions negative emissions?

S. E. Tanzer and A. Ramírez, Energy Environ. Sci., 2019, 12, 1210 DOI: 10.1039/C8EE03338B

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence. You can use material from this article in other publications without requesting further permissions from the RSC, provided that the correct acknowledgement is given.

Read more about how to correctly acknowledge RSC content.

Social activity