Erw policy and regulation: governing the industry

ERW Policy and Regulation Governing the Industry

As the world tries to find creative, cost-effective, and sustainable ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change, Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) has emerged as a promising solution. ERW involves the intentional pulverization and spreading of silicate minerals and rocks, which, over time, react with CO2 in the atmosphere and convert it into harmless bicarbonate. As a result, ERW has the potential to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere, reduce ocean acidification, and promote soil health. However, as with any emerging technology, ERW is subject to various policies, regulations, and legal frameworks. Learn more about the regulations governing ERW, as well as their impact on project development, technology adoption, and industry growth. 

ERW and the main policies around this technology

Enhanced Rock Weathering (ERW) has been gaining traction as a climate change mitigation solution, with the potential to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by grinding down rocks and spreading the particles over fields.

ERW enables the sequestration of CO2 in the soil and ultimately results in its long-term storage. However, in order to ensure that this technology is deployed in a manner that is efficient and effective, policies and regulations need to be put in place.

One critical policy framework that governs ERW is the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is an international accord signed in 2015 by over 190 countries to limit global warming to well below 2°C above preindustrial levels.

The Agreement recognizes the potential of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) measures, such as ERW, in achieving the climate goals. However, the Agreement does not provide specific guidelines on how to implement CDR, and it leaves it to individual countries to develop and implement CDR policies and strategies based on their national circumstances.

Therefore, countries like the United States and China, which are pioneers in ERW research, are at liberty to develop their own ERW policies and regulations.

Moreover, the ERW industry must also comply with existing regulations, such as those related to mining, land use, water use, air pollution, and waste disposal.

In the United States, for instance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the mining of rocks and minerals through its Underground Injection Control Program. ERW project developers must obtain permits from the EPA to inject minerals into the ground.

Also, the Bureau of Land Management oversees the development of public lands and may require an Environmental Impact Statement from ERW project developers. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act also regulate the quality of air and water that ERW projects may impact.

But how can these various policies benefit the ERW projects and the industry around them?

The benefits of ERW policy and regulation

The ERW industry may benefit from new policies and regulations proposed by various governments and organizations.

For example, the United Kingdom is considering a policy to incentivize farmers to spread crushed rocks on their fields as a way to enhance their soil health and reduce GHG emissions. Australia is also developing a strategy to increase the acid-neutralizing capacity of soils, which may involve the use of crushed rocks.

Similarly, The World Bank is exploring ways to support ERW implementation in developing countries, such as India and Ethiopia. Such policies and regulations may increase the demand for ERW materials and services and drive industry growth.

Besides that, ERW projects’ financing and implementation have been impacted by the international policies set by Climate Action organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

ERW is considered a part of carbon dioxide removal approaches that can help to limit global warming under the IPCC. A 2021 report by the UNFCCC found that Enhanced Rock Weathering removes four to 32 gigatons of CO2 over the century.

There’s also the question of the challenges that ERW technology faces to its large adoption around the world.

How technology adoption affects ERW policy and regulation around the world

Technology adoption is another factor that affects ERW policy and regulation. As with any emerging technology, ERW faces some technical, economic, and logistical challenges.

For instance, some ERW minerals may become depleted over time and need replenishing. ERW may also increase the risk of leaching heavy metals from the rocks into water bodies. Because of this, it is important to invest in research for more suitable and sustainable materials to use with this technology, like glauconite, a silicate mineral which has various benefits in agriculture that can be used effectively in ERW.

Moreover, ERW may require significant amounts of water, energy, and labor, depending on the scale and location of the project. ERW project developers and regulators must address these issues to ensure the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of the technology.

ERW is an emerging technology, and its governance is a subject of ongoing debate among policymakers and stakeholders. Critics argue that ERW could have negative environmental impacts on land use, natural habitats, and water resources. While proponents argue that the technology’s benefits far outweigh these potential concerns.

Thus, international standards, guidelines, and regulations would require regular revisions to address evolving environmental risks and emerging technologies.

Moving forward, policymakers and industry leaders must work collaboratively and transparently to create a sustainable path forward for ERW projects globally.

It’s important to comprehend ERW policy and regulation to better implement this technology

In conclusion, ERW holds significant promise as a CDR method to mitigate climate change. However, its implementation is subject to various policies, regulations, and legal frameworks, such as the Paris Agreement, environmental laws, land-use policies, and emerging government strategies.

ERW project developers must comply with these policies and regulations, as well as address the technical, economic, and logistical challenges of the technology. By doing so, the ERW industry may benefit from increased demand, financing, and industry growth.

As such, policymakers, regulators, and other stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that ERW is a viable and sustainable solution to climate change.

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