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CO2, an enemy to be beat in the fight against climate change, has become an ally in slowing down global warming. 

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, seeks to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This is a challenge that nature itself can help us with.

Forests are very effective allies for reducing the carbon footprint of the atmosphere. Trees, like plants, need water, nutrients, and CO₂. They absorb this gas and give off oxygen, as if they were natural purifiers. They do so increasingly well because, as they grow, the more carbon dioxide they absorb.

The same thing happens with the sea and the underwater plants that it shelters. In this way, forests, seas, and even soils are capable of absorbing around 50% of the carbon dioxide emissions caused by human beings. But there is still room for improvement.

NET: The best strategy for reducing the CO₂ in the atmosphere 

Negative Emissions Technologies (NET) group together technological developments aimed at pulling CO2 from the atmosphere that are based on nature itself.

The Emissions Gap Report 2020, a part of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), highlighted the importance of nature as an ally in decarbonization and added something new: Negative Emissions Technologies, better known as NET.

One of these developments is related with forested areas and two specific initiatives: reforestation (repopulating areas that have lost vegetation) and afforestation (planting trees where there never were any). To these actions, we must add the work required to preserve the forest mass and manage the forests. 

If we step up the complexity, we must highlight two NET solutions that increase the efficiency of what the environment does in a natural way. The first one is the fertilization of the oceans to increase the vegetable plankton that filters the CO₂ in aquatic environments. The second one is improved meteorization, which uses minerals that absorb CO₂ to transform it into other substances when they are in water.

Capturing and storing CO2 is possible thanks to CCUS 

CCUS (Carbon Capture, Use, and Storage) technologies make it possible to capture CO2 and store it or use it as a raw material for manufacturing, for example, synthetic fuels.

In addition to solutions that focus on filtering and absorbing CO2, there are other more technical developments. 

One outstanding one is carbon dioxide capture and storage technology (CCUS). Capturing this gas not only reduces its presence in the atmosphere, but it also brings about the option of storing it or using it as a raw material. For example, to manufacture synthetic fuels, as it will be done at our Petronor refinery in Bilbao, a pioneering project that we are developing.

“The rollout of CCUS projects can be an important contribution to decarbonizing the European industry in general without harming the competitiveness of our industry, which is subject to much more stringent environmental requirements than in other regions of the world,” explained Antonio López, Repsol Sr. Manager of Energy Transitions and Climate Change. 

With technology, we are now able to give it a second life and transform carbon dioxide into something that is useful to society. These are only some of its applications:

In our commitment to reducing CO₂ emissions, we have a powerful ally: nature itself. And thanks to CCUS technologies, we can support it directly, or take advantage of its principles and multiply its advantages. All this is summed up in our efforts to reach the commitment of zero net emissions by 2050.