Canada's Shopify buys contract to suck CO2 from air to cut emissions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - E-commerce firm Shopify said on Tuesday it would become the first customer to buy contract carbon removal units from Canada-based direct air capture company Carbon Engineering to slash its greenhouse gas emissions and called on others to follow suit.

FILE PHOTO: An employee works at Shopify's headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, October 22, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Shopify bought 10,000 units, or one metric tonne of carbon dioxide captured and permanently removed from the atmosphere, from the firm’s future direct air capture (DAC) projects.

Carbon Engineering has been running a pilot facility at the foot of British Columbia’ Coast Mountains to suck a ton of carbon dioxide a day out of the sky and convert it to fuels, in a bid to show that the planet can put emissions into reverse.

“We’re Carbon Engineering’s first customer because we recognize the need to go beyond emissions reductions,” said Stacy Kauk, director of Shopify’s Sustainability Fund.

“Our commitment to this new carbon dioxide removal service is not powerful enough on its own - we need others to join Shopify’s efforts, in any capacity, to catalyze this frontier large-scale DAC technology,” she said.

Carbon Engineering is building a commercial scale DAC facility in Texas to capture one million tons of CO2 per year when it starts up in 2024.

Another group of companies in Norway is exploring plans for a similar project to capture CO2 from the atmosphere.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes carbon removal will be needed to remove up to 1 trillion tons of CO2 by the end of the century to limit the rise in global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – the goal of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Companies such as Microsoft, Chevron, Occidental and billionaires Elon Musk and Bill Gates have invested in the technology but it is expensive and experts say it needs government support to become commercially viable.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden launched a working group last month to accelerate deployment of technologies to capture, remove and store CO2.

Carbon Engineering customers pay a deposit for carbon removal units, sold at a minimum of 100 units, with the remainder due once the CO2 has been removed and independently verified.

The companies did not disclose the price per unit.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Edmund Blair