Global insurer teams up with Aussie carbon remover

Friday 20 May 2022

The global giant, Zurich Insurance Group, recently announced moving beyond the 2050 net zero emissions commitment of other big insurers and set 2030 as its target year. In a news release, Zurich said it has partnered with three carbon removal suppliers, including Australia based InterEarth, to achieve the new goal. InterEarth uses what’s called woody biomass burial to remove CO2.

The Swiss headquartered insurer said the partnerships with carbon removal suppliers are “to balance out our unavoidable residual emissions” and also proactively scale up carbon removal solutions because of the “urgency” of the climate situation.

“Zurich has signed pre-purchase agreements for carbon removal certificates with three carbon removal suppliers, including InterEarth, as a first step to meeting the commitment to remove all residual emissions from its operations by 2030,” said Anja-Lea Fischer, Zurich’s head of operational sustainability.

Fischer said under these agreements Zurich has made advance payments to InterEarth to help fund field trials currently underway and will provide more payments as the project meets milestones. “By adopting this approach, Zurich is supporting the development of the project and the carbon removal industry generally,” said Fischer.

However, she said, Zurich is not actually an investor in the project. “Zurich Insurance Group is supporting early stage and innovative carbon removal solutions that are scalable to further the commercialization of new climate technologies. The group’s participation in such start-up projects is important for the projects to start and expand their operations,” explained Fischer.

The InterEarth project requires the “traditional insurance” needed by any business, she said, including property and liability. However, one interesting insurance option under discussion, said Fischer, is carbon credit assurance products. These provide some insurance cover based on the amount of carbon removal purchased.

InterEarth’s method of removing carbon is an Australian first. “Woody biomass burial is pretty novel. We know of no other scheme in Australia,” said COO and co-founder Steven Avenell, who is based in Perth, Western Australia.

“There is a small operation in the US using waste from logging but there appears to be nothing else in the world with the combination of scale and affordability we hope to achieve,” he added.

The woody biomass burial method involves growing highly adapted woody plants on degraded, low rainfall, previously cleared farmland. The plants are trimmed periodically from the ground up and the harvested biomass is buried and encapsulated in subterranean chambers. The aim, said the Zurich media release, is to permanently store the carbon captured within the biomass.

Avenell said that when forests and woodlands grow to maturity “they exist in a carbon equilibrium with the atmosphere – the amount of carbon being taken in equals the amount being released. The key difference is that we create a carbon pump that can run indefinitely by using coppicing trees that can be harvested of their above ground biomass and regrow multiple times,” said Avenell.

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Source: insurancebusinessmag

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