International scientists and innovators presented the concept and components of the circular carbon economy, including nature-based elements, technological underpinnings and its potential as a solution to the climate challenge, at an event held on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 25), held recently in Madrid, Spain.
Organized by the Ministry of Energy of Saudi Arabia and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the event took place in the Gulf Cooperation Council Pavilion at the COP25.
“Recognizing the urgency to act on the climate while ensuring access to clean and affordable energy for all, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is promoting the circular carbon economy model as a sustainable, pragmatic and cost-effective approach for achieving ambitious climate goals,” said panel moderator Dr. Khalid Abuleif, chief UNFCC negotiator for Saudi Arabia.
Environmental architect William McDonough, of William McDonough & Partners, said: “Carbon has been demonized but carbon is not the enemy. The current problem is one of mismanaged carbon resulting from design failures. We need a new narrative of carbon that recognizes the benefits of carbon and addresses the risks in a responsible manner. This leads us to a narrative of how we can redesign our products, buildings, systems, and cities in a circular carbon economy to improve the health of our planet.”
KAUST is catalyzing the circular carbon economy by contributing scientific advances in the development of engineering, chemical and biological technologies in addition to clean and traditional energy solutions, which include hydrogen fuel and advanced materials.
Discussing opportunities for CO2 utilization, Professor Jorge Gascón, director of KAUST Catalysis Research Center, said: “We, catalysis researchers, are modern alchemists, we look for the philosopher’s stone, the one that will help us turn waste (CO2) into value. We are about to have another revolution in the way we use our resources and in the way we produce and store energy, and I believe catalysis will play a huge role. At KAUST, we are in an excellent position to contribute strongly to that transition.”
The circular carbon economy is a system where carbon emissions are reduced, reused, recycled and removed (4R). Such a closed-loop system, inspired by how nature works, may help restore the balance of the carbon cycle.
Dr. Carlos Duarte, professor of marine science at KAUST, said: “The biosphere established a finely tuned global carbon cycle that moves enormous amounts of carbon while maintaining climatic stability. We need to learn from how nature does this and embed society’s processes within the circular carbon economy of the biosphere.”
We need to unveil the many processes that support the global carbon cycle, from microbes to whales, and translate these into technologies that allow humans to manage carbon in a manner consistent with the global carbon cycle.”