Jan. 9, 2023

Transdisciplinary research group receives $4.2M award focused on carbon dioxide removal

Researchers at UCalgary part of multi-institutional group awarded large federal grant to advance research on carbon dioxide removal

A transdisciplinary research team at UCalgary has joined forces with researchers at the University of Alberta, the University of Toronto, Simon Fraser University, and the Pembina Institute to launch a large-scale research project aimed at assessing the potential for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies and to identify policy options that could enable sustainable, equitable, and rapid deployment of CDR in appropriate contexts.

Over the next five years, this large research team will collaborate to identify and assess the efficacy, cost, environmental impacts and scalability of these CDR technologies along with the ways in which CDR deployment will impact law and the greater community.

A generational challenge

“Meeting Canada’s net-zero targets is a generational challenge in which carbon dioxide removal will play a role,” says Dr. Sean McCoy, PhD, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering and the project’s lead principal investigator.

“In our project, we want to understand the factors — technical, economic, social and political — that will influence the role for this technology in Canada and how we can use it wisely.”

The Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund (EDF), administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), has provided $4.2 million in funding toward this project. With penalties collected from environmental violators, ECCC has designated $206 million of EDF funding toward the Climate Action and Awareness Fund to support Canadian-made projects that help to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.   

The project, which includes UCalgary researchers from the Schulich School of Engineering, the Haskayne School of Business, the Faculty of Law, and the faculties of Arts and Science, and the School of Public Policy has identified three themes that will guide the research activities: understanding past and present; anticipating futures; and creating options.

“In this project,” says McCoy, “we’re joining together researchers from across a wide range of disciplines to generate insights that, working in traditional silos, we wouldn’t have come up with.”

Building capacity and knowledge in Canada

The goal of the project is not just to generate insights about CDR in Canada, but also to develop Canadian expertise on the topic. This will involve the training of at least 15 master's students, 11 doctoral students, and at least two postdoctoral fellows to build Canada’s depth in climate and technology research. These students will be trained in engineering, sciences, law, history, political science, and economics with opportunities at all of the partner universities.

Through this research, the group plans to share the knowledge identified around the role of technology in mitigating climate change through negative emissions through a variety of channels including publishing the research results in both open access and peer-reviewed scholarly journals, through blog and social media posts, and briefs conveying the results on the project website, seminars for the interested public, community focus group discussions, and briefings sent to policy-makers.

One particular output will be the development of a CDR primer for Canada, which will result in a living document meant to be accessible to all and of interest to those who want to dig a little deeper.

This is an exciting and important research project that aims to have a lasting impact on energy transition and policy, the economy, and in communities across Canada

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