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Switzerland and Iceland join forces to ‘capture’ CO2 

Glaciers in Iceland
Iceland is exploring the idea of burying CO2 in the volcanic subsoil. Keystone

The Swiss government hopes to meet part of its climate goals by burying CO2 in Iceland, according to a report on Monday by Swiss public broadcaster RTS. A driver of climate change, CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. 

The two countries have agreed to jointly develop “negative emission technologies” which involve extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it underground, according to the report.  

At the heart of those efforts is the Zurich-based company Climeworks, which is developing technology for capturing CO2 from the air. In Iceland, the Carbfix project is experimenting with burying CO2 in the volcanic subsoil. 

The two companies will soon launch their first joint installation. In a declaration of intent signed on July 20, the Swiss and Icelandic governments have committed to overseeing and supporting the new negative emission technologies. 

Carbon neutrality at stake 

Some view the large-scale development of carbon capture and storage technologies as a key step to limiting the effects of future climate change. 

Swiss environmental economics expert Philippe Thalmann told RTS that such technologies are essential to achieving the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.  

“We will continue to emit greenhouse gases. Mainly in agriculture, in livestock farming, maybe in aviation, places where it is difficult to eliminate. But in return, we’re going to take CO2 out of the atmosphere,” said Thalmann, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne EPFL. 

Exporting CO2 to Iceland 

The Swiss subsoil, unlike the Icelandic basalt, is not conducive to the storage of CO2. The government’s strategy is thus to invest in Iceland and get carbon credit for the result, according to RTS. Exporting CO2 captured in Switzerland to Iceland is also under consideration in the medium term. 

Thalmann stresses that such techniques don’t mean Switzerland doesn’t have to reduce its emissions: “It is a measure that is really complementary to everything else, it comes last. We shouldn’t think that we can continue to emit greenhouse gases, that it is not serious and that we will manage to clean it all up after.” 

How to regulate global efforts to clean up the air we breathe is one of the questions that will be tackled at the next international climate conference (COP26).


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR