Swiss carbon capture startup raises £64m

Ed Clowes
Climeworks founders Jan Wurzbacher & Christoph Gebald

A Swiss startup has raised millions of pounds to fight climate change by capturing greenhouses gases in the air, in what the company said was the largest investment of its kind.

Climeworks, based in Zurich, attracted £64m in a private funding round to ramp up its production of devices that take carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere.

Nearly half the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels is not absorbed in plants and the oceans, scientists have found, instead remaining airborne where it inflicts massive damage on the planet.

The machines that Climeworks builds can capture this carbon dioxide and store it underground in a solid state.

It is also able to sell C02 to corporate clients such as Coca-Cola, which use it to make their drinks fizzy.

Climeworks said that the investment is the largest to date in so-called direct air capture. Earlier this year US oil company Chevron invested in rival firm Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company which also counts Bill Gates and mining giant BHP among its backers.

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One of the drawbacks of the technology is its expense. Climeworks charges individual customers 89p per kilogram of carbon dioxide captured, which equates to about £890 per metric tonne - roughly the amount emitted by one passenger flying from London to New York.

But battling climate change is a big business. As governments crack down on emissions, finding ways to run cleaner operations has become a priority for large companies.

Some critics argue the technology will not be cost effective until 2077, long after what scientists say is the point of no return.

However, all proposed measures to address global warming intend to use carbon capture in some form. Alternative measures include capturing emissions directly from major producers such as factories, and pumping it deep underground.

Britain earmarked £800m for carbon capture in the March Budget.

Christoph Gebald,  joint chief executive of Climeworks, said: “We’re planning to further develop our technology and make it accessible to even more clients, including individuals. We will use the proceeds to build a new plant with a capacity of about 100,000 tonnes.”

Operations could start by 2022. The firm employs more than 100 people across Europe.