Musk Announces US$100 Million Carbon Removal Competition

    Stockholm (NordSIP) – While most global efforts to mitigate climate focus on reducing CO2 emissions, there is a lesser-discussed hope that humans may one day be able to develop some technology to capture those emissions and remove them from the atmosphere. However, existing projects appear to be either not commercially viable or simply too local to be scalable.

    Now, SpaceX and Tesla’s Elon Musk is funding a US$100 million competition inviting “innovators and teams from anywhere on the planet to create and demonstrate solutions that can pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans ultimately scaling massively to gigaton levels, locking away CO2 permanently in an environmentally benign way.”

    The Competition

    Touted as “the largest incentive prize in history, an extraordinary milestone”, the competition will consider “any carbon-negative solution is eligible: nature-based, direct air capture, oceans, mineralization, or anything else that sequesters CO2 permanently.”

    The competition will last four years and “scientifically evaluate proposed solutions across multiple criteria, including amount of CO2 removed, life cycle analysis of the removal process, energy efficiency, land footprint and sequestration capabilities.”

    This XPRIZE aims to find solutions that can remove 10 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2050. Competitors will need to present a  working prototype that can be shown to remove at least 1 ton of CO2 per day. The solution has to also be economically scalable, based on cost per ton, to the gigaton level and the carbon has to be removed for a minimum of 100 years.

    Teams can register from April 22nd, 2021, Earth Day, when the full competition guidelines will be published.

    Funding and Prizes

    The headline figure will be attributed to several projects over time. The 15 top teams selected will receive US$1 million each after 18 months, at the discretion of the competition judges.

    Milestone Awards will support fundraising for operating budgets to achieve the full-scale demonstrations required to win the prize. Competing student teams will also be able to apply for twenty-five $200,000 student scholarships during these 18 months.

    The Grand Prize Winner will receive a US$50 million reward. Another US$20 million will go to the second-place project, while the third place will receive US$10 million.

    Image by AP PHOTO/Jae C. Hong via Wikimedia Commons

    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe is an economist with 8 years of experience in macroeconomic and financial analysis for the Economist Intelligence Unit, the UN World Institute for Development Economic Research, the Stockholm School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Filipe holds a MSc in European Political Economy from the LSE and a MSc in Economics from the University of London, where he currently is a PhD candidate.

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