Negative Emissions Technologies

The Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) Program’s Policy and Science Interface (PSI) group has advanced research into negative emissions technologies—ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere—investigating whether they are a viable way of tackling climate change.

© Frankipeti | Dreamstime

© Frankipeti | Dreamstime

Research by PSI has quantified the potential impacts of the different negative emissions technologies (NETs) on factors such as land, greenhouse gas emissions, water, albedo, nutrients, and energy, to determine the biophysical limits to, and economic costs of, their widespread application [1].

The results of this work show there are numerous resource implications associated with the widespread implementation of NETs that need to be addressed before they can play a significant role in achieving climate change goals. The study concludes that there is no NET (or combination of NETs) currently available that could be implemented to meet the 2°C target without significant impact on either land, energy, water, nutrient, albedo, or cost, and so ‘plan A’ must be to immediately and aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Figure 1. Schematic representation of carbon flows among atmospheric, land, ocean, and geological reservoirs for different NETs. Source: [1].

PSI research has also identified options to lower the pressure on land in order to deploy NETs such as Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage at large scales. PSI’s systems dynamics model FeliX has also been further developed to assess the land scarcity that already creates tension between food security and bioenergy production [2].

The FeliX model was used to quantify emissions pathways when microalgae is used as a feedstock to free up to 2 billion hectares of land currently used for pasture and feed crops. Forest plantations established on these areas can conceivably meet 50% of global primary energy demand, resulting in emissions mitigation of up to 544 petagrams of carbon by 2100. The study concludes that—even though previously thought unattainable—carbon sinks and climate change mitigation of this magnitude are within the bounds of technological feasibility (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Time series (from top) of total extent of permanent pastures and meadows; arable land and permanent crops; and forest plantations. In the Alg-Feed scenario, microalgae is used to meet 40% of demand for feed, and the land (1.8 Bha) spared is converted to plantation. Shaded ranges show the effects of population growth, the leading source of systematic error on agricultural land use projections. Source: [2].

PSI contributed a chapter to, and initiated the involvement of ESM and Energy Program scientists in a major new reference work: The Handbook of Clean Energy Systems. This work provides a comprehensive view of current research on clean energy.

PSI was substantially involved in the organization of several policy relevant events on this topic. These included the Toyota High-level Symposium on Sustainable Cities in Toyota City, Japan, hosted by the Global Carbon Project (GCP)-Tsukuba Office and a further workshop on Negative emissions: Bridging societal and mitigation needs in Hokkaido, Japan. In addition, the GCP launched a new research initiative on Managing Global Negative Emissions (MaGNET) acknowledging the important role that negative emissions play in deep decarbonization pathways in the future.

Florian Kraxner co-convened a session entitled Negative emissions For Climate Change Stabilization & the Role of CO2 Geological Storage at the international conference: Our Common Future Under Climate Change. PSI also participated in the side event Carbon Removal Solutions: Discussion on Research and Development Needs, organized by UC Berkeley, USA and Mines ParisTech, France and the first European Carbon-Negative Conference. The official session findings are available online.


[1] Smith P, Davis SJ, Creutzig F, Fuss S, Minx J, Gabrielle B, Kato E, Jackson RB, et al.  (2015). Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions. Nature Climate Change.

[2] Walsh BJ, Rydzak F, Palazzo P, Kraxner F, Herrero M, Schenk PM, Ciais P, Janssens IA, et al. (2015). New feed sources key to ambitious climate targets. Carbon Balance and Management 10:26.

[3] Kraxner F, Fuss S, Krey V, Best D, Leduc S, Kindermann G, Yamagata Y, Schepaschenko D, et al. (2015). The role of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) for climate policy. Vol. 3. pp. 1466-1483. In: Yan J ed. The Handbook of Clean Energy Systems. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

[4] Leduc S, Kindermann G, Forsell N & Kraxner F (2015) Bioenergy potential from forest biomass. Vol. 1. P. 35-48. In: Yan J ed., The Handbook of Clean Energy Systems. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.recharge

[5] Schepaschenko D, Kraxner F, See L, Fuss S, McCallum I, Fritz S, Perger C, Shvidenko A, et al. (2015). Global biomass information: from data generation to application. Vol. 1. pp. 11-33. In: Yan J ed., The Handbook of Clean Energy Systems. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

[6] See L, Kraxner F, Fuss S, Perger C, Schill C, Aoki K, Leduc S, McCallum I, et al. (2015). The potential of crowdsourcing for the renewable energy sector. Vol. 1. pp 721-735. In: Yan J ed. 2015, The Handbook of Clean Energy Systems. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

[7] Fuss S, Canadell JG, Peters GP, Tavoni M, Andrew RM, Ciais P, Jackson RB, Jones CD, et al.  (2014). Betting on negative emissions. Nature Climate Change, 4(10):850-853.

[8] Kraxner F, Leduc S, Fuss S, Aoki K, Kindermann G & Yamagata Y (2014). Energy resilient solutions for Japan - a BECCS case study. Energy Procedia, 61:2791-2796.

[9] Kraxner, F., Aoki K, Leduc S, Kindermann G, Fuss S, Yang J, et al. (2012). BECCS in South Korea – Analyzing the negative emissions potential of bioenergy as a mitigation tool. Renewable Energy.

[10] Kraxner F, Nordström E-M, Obersteiner M, Havlík P, Gusti M, Mosnier A, Frank S, Valin H, et al. (2013). Global bioenergy scenarios - Future forest development, land-use implications and trade-offs. Biomass and Bioenergy.

[11] Kraxner F, Nilsson S & Obersteiner M. (2003): Negative Emissions from BioEnergy Use, Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECS): The Case of Biomass Production by Sustainable Forest Management from Semi-natural Temperate Forests. Biomass and Bioenergy, 24(4-5): 285-296.


Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC), Germany

SINTEF (Norwegian: Stiftelsen for industriell og teknisk forskning), Norway

Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR)

Former Presidential Working Unit for Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4), Indonesia

Global Carbon Project

National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Japan

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Austria

International Energy Agency (IEA) France

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

University Sao Paolo, Brazil

BELLONA Foundation, Norway

Bandung Technology Institute, Indonesia

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Last edited: 07 April 2016


Florian Kraxner

Deputy Program Director

Ecosystems Services and Management

T +43(0) 2236 807 233


Making ends meet: Negative emissions for climate stabilization

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