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Q&A: Delta CleanTech’s executive chairman on Big Tech’s $925M investment in carbon removal

Delta CleanTech Executive Chairman Lionel Kambeitz


An alliance of Big Tech companies including Google, Meta, Shopify, and Stripe announced last week that they’re collaborating with Stripe-owned company Frontier to collectively spend $925 million on carbon removal technologies over the next eight years, per The Atlantic.

The collaboration marks the largest investment in the budding carbon removal industry to date, underscoring the urgency to mitigate climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. As the flip side of emissions is extraction, various carbon capture strategies ranging from nature-based solutions like planting trees to tech solutions like direct air capture and capturing at the combustion source seek to lower the amount of atmospheric carbon. Although there’s some controversy around the efficacy of carbon capture tech, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that carbon removal is now “essential” to decarbonizing society.

One company in the carbon capture space, Delta CleanTech, has been working in the clean energy sector for 17 years developing carbon dioxide capture technologies, and has a subsidiary, Carbon RX, which provides carbon credit validation and management.

In an interview with Insider Intelligence, Delta CleanTech Executive Chairman Lionel Kambeitz talks about how Big Tech’s announcement could be a game changer on the climate innovation front.

The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Insider Intelligence (II): What does this nearly $1 billion carbon removal plan mean for the future of your industry?

Lionel Kambeitz (LK): It’s a tremendous opportunity for carbon management in general. Here we have some of the largest modern corporations that are concerned about the environment teaming up and putting a lot of capital forward. I think it’s a great moment for CO2 mitigation.

II: What’s the significance of the timing of the investment announcement?

LK: Historically, there’s been a bit of a ‘stick and a carrot’ by the government to drive this industry along—there’s taxation and then there’s an opportunity for the government to help it along. But now the investment community has really embraced ESG—environmental, social, and governance—and in the embracing of that, it's become important to corporations’ C-suites, and C-suite appointments are being made to manage ESG. So, it’s very exciting because this is the beginning of large corporations taking it upon themselves to fulfill an ESG mandate, not just being forced by government taxation to do it.

II: How could this investment affect the trajectory of the commercialization and scalability of carbon capture technologies?

LK: I think it could be really profound and worth watching. It’s not merely just four or five Big Tech companies' investment, which is in itself a feat, but it’s also the focus of many individuals in technology upstarts working on carbon mitigation. So, it’s just the beginning of Big Tech rolling up its sleeves and I think there’s a tremendous amount of innovation that’s coming. It’s a very significant win for greenhouse gas mitigation.

II: Some environmental groups are concerned that carbon capture provides an excuse to keep polluting. What’s your response to that criticism?

LK: There are many solutions required to reduce our CO2 footprint. You and I can do things at home and changes can be made at big power plants. So I think it’s one of the many tools in the toolbox for reducing CO2.

The fact remains that carbon capture does capture CO2 that would normally be emitted into the atmosphere, and if that CO2 is then managed and sequestered properly, then it’s a bona fide reduction methodology that has to be looked at. Some of these power plants and cement plants that have been built—they’ve got a lot of life left in them. How can they continue to be functional plants and yet still meet their carbon footprint mandate? Well, one way to do it is to capture the CO2 that comes off their exhaust—and that’s what we do.

II: Your company also manages voluntary carbon credits, which corporations are using to reduce their emissions. However, some say that the system doesn’t really incentivize making steep emissions cuts. What are your thoughts on that?

LK: I think the credits form the very backbone of innovation in carbon reduction. Many companies that are going to be building technologies and innovating reducing carbon—this creates a currency for them. I think it'll help spur the development of new technologies for CO2 reduction.

Voluntary credits are going to be bought. So, if a company doesn’t have its operating capabilities heading toward net zero, organically within its own limitations—and many companies just won't be able to go to net zero, despite getting close—I think the purchase of voluntary credits are a perfect example of a company supplementing what they're doing and what they can do to be able to get to net zero.There's also an element of carbon credits being traded through Shopify. So I think that’s a really excellent way of providing more people access to these carbon credits.

I think it's outstanding what Facebook and Google and these other companies have created. When I look at the innovation and culture that has come from Big Tech, like what Tesla has done—imagine what the culture and innovation of Big Tech can do to carbon mitigation. This is what we’ve always needed. We needed our best minds, our best young companies engaged in this to really find solutions. So I’m extremely optimistic.