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Sustainability Accelerator announces first greenhouse gas removal grants

Sixteen research teams from across Stanford University will explore innovative strategies for gigaton atmospheric greenhouse gas removal – the school’s first ‘Flagship Destination’ research focus.

The Sustainability Accelerator selected projects across four sub-categories: terrestrial; oceanic; direct GHG removal, and monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV). (Image credit: Desirea Navarro/iStock)

The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability Accelerator is supporting 16 projects focused on removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – the first funding given as part of the Greenhouse Gas Removal Flagship Destination, which has a goal of gigaton-scale greenhouse gas removal from the atmosphere by 2050. It is the first of many ambitious and aspirational Flagship Destinations the Accelerator will pursue in subsequent years. 

The grants are described as "scoping" grants and are designed to test ideas that address key barriers or validate mechanisms that would allow the solution to succeed. They cut across four sub-categories: terrestrial; oceanic; direct GHG removal, and monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV). 

“With atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases now exceeding dangerous thresholds, we must look creatively and seriously at strategies for removing gases already in the skies – and to do so at globally impactful scales,” said Yi Cui, director of the Sustainability Accelerator. “These grants bring to bear Stanford’s expertise in policy, technology, engineering, and nature-based solutions to collaborate on innovative, high-reward approaches to greenhouse gas removal. The Accelerator is proud to support their work and we look forward to similar grants in other Flagship Destinations as they take shape.”

Carbon dioxide is only the best known and most plentiful of the greenhouse gases, but methane, nitrous oxide, and others also trap heat in the atmosphere. All contribute to climate change and the flagship has projects addressing each. Impact and scale are the critical aspects of the Flagship Destination strategy. So far, no removal approach comes near the gigaton volume of gases necessary to have a measurable impact on climate change.

These grants focus on impactful high-risk/high-reward approaches. The proposals recognized in this year’s Sustainability Accelerator grants range from the surprising – harnessing earthworms to capture carbon from organic waste – to the innovative – growing massive seaweed farms to sequester carbon dioxide in the ocean – to the intriguing – using free radicals to remove hard-to-capture methane.

“The magnitude of global sustainability challenges requires an equal measure of ambition, and these sixteen teams are rising to the challenge,” said Arun Majumdar, dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. “While the sixteen projects strategically cover a breadth of disciplines and approaches to greenhouse gas removal, they share the school’s foundational commitment to fundamental discovery, expanding knowledge, and scaling solutions globally. With this round of funding, the Accelerator has also critically laid the groundwork for many more Flagship Destinations to come.”

Subsequent Flagship Destinations will run concurrently and will be shaped by input and feedback from stakeholders across the school and university and from external experts. Regardless of specific focus, the Sustainability Accelerator’s vision lays out that each Flagship Destination will be measurable; globally impactful in scale; achievable on urgent timeframes; sensitive to global equity concerns; inclusive of various viewpoints, partnerships, and strategies; and welcoming to collaborators outside the university across many sectors.

The full list of Sustainability Accelerator Scoping grantees and project descriptions is available on the Sustainability Accelerator website.

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