Breaking down the main design elements of comprehensive CDR support legislation


Since 2020 OpenAir members have researched, developed, drafted and/or influenced several pieces of state and federal CDR support legislation in the United States and Europe, including:

  • The NY and MA Carbon Dioxide Removal Leadership Acts (STATE-CDRLA)
  • The Federal Carbon Dioxide Removal Leadership Act (FED-CDRLA)
  • The California Carbon Dioxide Removal Market Development Act (CDMDA)
  • The NYC Carbon City Property Tax Abatement Act
  • The Luxembourg Negative Emissions Tariff (L-NET)

Over the course of these efforts our community has come up with a kind of rough checklist for the main policy components that make for solid CDR support bills. In this post I attempt to summarize them for the first time fellow CDR advocates, with the hope that it may help make their own policy invention objectives a little lighter. But what is laid out here is far from the final word on what might make for good and impactful legislation for all of time. Far from it. In true OpenAir fashion I encourage readers to continue to hack, tweak and contest, and in so doing expand our collective imaginations as to what makes for a great bill. Policy should always evolve and diverge over time and across space, not simply replicate.

Some First Principles …

Before jumping into our checklist, it’s important to consider a few fundamental questions and concepts.

  1. What does “Support mean, in policy terms?” Many different types of policy interventions are needed to accelerate carbon removal progress in the coming years. These include those that channel public investments in research & development; those that establish favorable permitting and certification rules and systems conducive to project development, but also public safety and fairness; and a whole host of sound rules related to intellectual property protection, liability exposure and other areas of what I think are referred to as ‘tort’ law (Lawyers: correct me if I’m wrong).

But one of the most important forms of policy needed right now concerns the different ways government can act incentivize or directly stimulate

  1. Policy must connect with place When building a policy from scratch or from pieces imported from other places, it is absolutely critical to avoid simply cutting what was developed in one context, and pasting it into another, whole cloth, without first deeply considering what’s actually happening on ground in the city, state, province or country that you’re developing a bill for. What makes sense in one place might be a poor fit for another, or more often requires adaptation to make it fit. Every political setting has a unique set of conditions and histories that prevail which must be taken into account before you can commit to any particular policy design or approach. The most important contextual factors to consider include:
  • Existing laws and regulations. Many if not most new pieces of legislation reference or amends prior laws already in place. Existing laws can also create opportunities (or, as we say, ‘hooks’) for new policy proposals by opening up the door or providing a more coherent rationale for what you plan to propose in a new bill. Prior law can also just as readily pre-empt or limit new policies. For these reasons it’s really important to study what’s already out there and make sure you design your legislation so that it leverages, works around or complies with existing law.

A CDR Policy Buffet

  • Support Mechanisms

  • Eligibility Parameters

  • Scope and Size

  • Funding Sources

  • Timetable