Responsible transition pathways for new carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies
Project duration: July 2023–June 2026
Dr Yuwan Malakar
With novel technologies comes new societal challenges and opportunities. Addressing these challenges—and harnessing the opportunities—is essential for the technology to succeed.
Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, if deployed successfully, could allow Australia to achieve its goal of net-zero emissions by the year 2050. But this deployment needs to occur fast and at scale to prevent serious climate risks.
Many CDR technologies in Australia are currently in early stage development. This provides social science researchers opportunities to consult and collaborate with a broad range of stakeholders, partners, end-users and communities. These discussions could yield insights in relation to what social and ethical risks a large-scale deployment of CDR technologies might ensue—as well as how we might address these risks, well in advance of deployment.
To ensure CDRs deliver benefit to all Australians, researchers will also need to understand what roles are critical for stakeholders (including research institutions, government agencies, civil society organisations and industry partners) to play in contributing to a net-zero Australia. Identifying these risks and mitigation measures earlier in the development stage plays an important role in building stakeholders’ confidence in the process. It can also pave the way to social acceptance of CDR technologies. We plan to take advantage of these opportunities through a collaborative multi-year research project between CSIRO’s CarbonLock Future Science Platform, Responsible Innovation Future Science Platform, and Environment Business Unit.
The goal of this project is to build partnerships with stakeholders and co-design pathways for addressing the social and ethical risks associated with the deployment of CDR technologies. In so doing, it aims to develop a range of criteria for assessing proposed and preferred transition pathways using two technologies currently being developed by CSIRO: ocean alkalinisation and mineral carbonation. This will enable us to identify what a transition pathway that is fast, permanent, scalable, cost effective, and responsible might look like for sustainable and responsible deployment of CDR technologies.
Central to this project is developing a system-level understanding of how various stakeholders might play a role to upscale CDR technologies in Australia’s transition to net zero. A suite of interconnected methods, including interviews, focus group discussions, and survey, will be employed to engage with these stakeholders to gather their views and insights of CDR technologies.
The development of CDR technologies requires working with a broad range of stakeholders that may have various views of social and ethical risks of these technologies. It is important that, in collating and combining these perspectives, we also ensure they are represented accurately.
Research related to the development of CDR technologies is currently ongoing. In many cases, it is unclear when (or even if) these technologies will be ready for deployment. Social and ethical risks may be technology- and context-specific. Another potential barrier could therefore be determining out how to apply insights from one technology to another.
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Malakar, Y., & Lacey, J. (2023). On the interconnected nature of risk and responsibility in the research and development of new and emerging technologies. Risk Analysis, 00, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1111/risa.14229