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2.03.2021

Tech Giants look to Iceland in fight against climate crisis

Photo by Benjamin Hardman

Global warming is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Governments, businesses, and individuals have declared ambitious goals but now it is imperative to follow through with bold actions. We know what needs to be done and the solutions we must implement and scale up already exist.

Roughly, we can say that climate actions fall into two categories: To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to what cannot be avoided. We can choose from a myriad of solutions in both categories, but it is important to select the most efficient and appropriate solution on a case-by-case basis to maximize the impact of climate action.

International corporations take action

Over the past few seasons, the so-called Tech Giants have become active participants in climate action. Amazon, like Iceland, is aiming for carbon neutrality no later than 2040, whereas Apple is planning to reach that goal a decade sooner. Microsoft has even more ambitious climate goals which aim to not only achieve a negative carbon footprint by 2030 but to have by 2050 completely reclaimed all the company‘s former emissions from its foundation. It is inspiring to see some of the most influential and powerful companies in the world stepping up to the plate, setting a vital precedent for climate friendly and profitable operations.

Microsoft invests in Iceland

A few of these companies are now looking towards European projects and technological solutions in their climate actions. The combined technologies of the Icelandic company Carbfix and Swiss company Climeworks have gathered most of this attention, with a complete solution that entails capturing  carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere before dissolving it in water and pumping it underground where it is permanently and safely turned into stone in less than two years.

Access to green energy is one of the main premises for maximum climate impact in direct air capture (DAC) and mineral storage projects, as the largest carbon footprint of such technologies lies within their energy consumption. Currently, construction of the Orca project which involves a massive scale-up of Climeworks and Carbfix collaborative efforts is underway in the Hellisheidi, ON Power Geothermal Park, that will multiply their climate action capacity before summer. ON Power will supply operations with renewable energy of geothermal origin. A number of large, international corporations have already subscribed to permanent removal and mineral storage of their carbon footprints, including Microsoft and Stripe. Furthermore, the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund will provide funding in Climework’s new direct air capture plant in Hellisheidi.

Climate friendly industry in Iceland

It is clear that we need to develop the infrastructure for large-scale carbon capture and storage in order to reach our climate goals. Such development will create a new and climate friendly industry. We can also expect that other industries will become interested in establishing operations in the vicinity of CO2 capture and removal facilities.

Nowhere else in the world can CO2 from direct air capture be turned into stone as straightforward as in Iceland. Regions that are located in vicinity of basalt formations have a unique advantage when it comes to implementing carbon neutral and negative technological solutions, as demonstrated by the Iceland example.

The interest that these large, international tech companies have shown these projects is a mark of the great possibilities inherent in basaltic bedrock, technological know-how, and pure energy.

It is time for offence to ensure our win in the ongoing battle against the climate crisis.

Edda Sif Pind Aradóttir, CEO Carbfix and Jan Wurzbacher, Director, Founder and Member of the Board Climeworks.

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