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‘Survival of the fittest’ critical for nature-based solutions to climate

‘Survival of the fittest’ critical for nature-based solutions to climate, argues entrepreneur from Brilliant Planet and United Renewables

Nature-based solutions for climate change that are created ‘artificially’ have been ‘fraught with failure,’ because of a reliance on complex and synthetic scientific methods, claims Riccardo Gubbioli, Director of Corporate Finance at carbon capture and storage (CCS) scale-up Brilliant Planet.

DOUGLAS, Isle of Man, Aug. 26, 2022 Instead, the sector needs to embrace more natural and holistic methods to sustainably contribute to net-zero in the future, as CCS technologies come back into focus with the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States.

The cost of complexity

Gubbioli issued this call to rethink organic CCS technologies whilst in conversation with Chris Caldwell, entrepreneur and founder of clean-energy firm United Renewables, on an episode of the Conversations in Climate podcast released today. Discussing the original boom-and-bust in nature-based solutions such as biofuels in the mid-2000’s, Caldwell asked why the world hasn’t ‘gone back’ to the same technologies with more investment in recent years. Gubbioli answered by stressing the impact of ‘high profile deaths’ – such as green-oil microalgae firm Sapphire Energy – which scared investors away from these firms and technologies. Sapphire used ‘[a] synthetic process… whereby they were taking algae from an ivory and growing it in very artificial static situations… [requiring] massive infrastructure… [and] very expensive full bio-reactors,’ Gubbioli explained. This fragile and high-cost method never recovered from the post-2008 oil price collapse.

Lessons learnt for nature-based CCS

By contrast, Gubbioli believes the sector can become much more resilient if it embraces more grassroots, uncertain production methods. ‘We looked at our failures and we learned from them, and that’s why we moved to very natural processes,’ he explained of Brilliant Planet’s own development journey. Brilliant Planet sequester carbon directly from the atmosphere by growing specific strains of microalgae in open saltwater facilities on the coast of Morocco. ‘We grow our algae by the sea with the local species, and in a natural environment. So, what that means is that the algae naturally is ready to compete with its predators. Survival of the fittest – that’s how we’ve adopted the technology,’ explained Gubbioli. The result is a lower-cost, simpler and more resilient solution than previous iterations of algae CCS.

Biden puts CCS back in focus

The discussion between Caldwell and Gubbioli follows the return of CCS to the top of the climate debate, with its inclusion in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by President Biden this month. The bill’s inclusion of $369 billion in investments for clean energy and climate will reduce US emissions by 42% by 2030 (versus just 27% under prior policy) according to a preliminary analysis by Princeton University. This includes billions of dollars for agricultural nature-based solutions and increases the value of the 45Q tax credits which pay firms to capture and store carbon. Particularly relevant is an increase in the tax credit for removing CO2 directly from the atmosphere to $180 a ton, which is expected to encourage more start-ups like Brilliant Planet to develop nature-based CCS solutions.

Conversations on Climate offers a space for entrepreneurs, leaders, and global experts to contribute their experience and expertise to the climate change discussion. Previous guests include cleantech expert Kritika Kumar and Professor Jean-Pierre Benoit. The latest episode, featuring Riccardo Gubbioli’s conversation with host Chris Caldwell, is released on Friday 26th August 2022. The full video of the interview will be available here.

All previous episodes can be found here. For more information and contact details for Conversations on Climate or United Renewables go here.

CONTACT Isabella Hawke – Sales and Marketing Consultant COMPANY United Renewables

PHONE +447624457139