In Brief

Dominic Cummings handed £100m to save planet by ‘sucking’ CO2 from air

Treasury is funding the No. 10 advisor’s experimental scheme despite ‘scepticism’ in Whitehall

The Treasury is pumping £100m into developing a little-known technology championed by Dominic Cummings that “sucks” carbon dioxide out of the air in order to combat global warming.

Boris Johnson’s most senior adviser is leading a push to help the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions through “direct air capture” (DAC). During the process, “a stack of metal ‘air scrubbers’ use a chemical solution to remove the CO2”, which is then stored underground, according to the Daily Mail

But Cumming’s pet project “has attracted scepticism in Whitehall”, The Times reports. 

Government sources told the newspaper that the influential Downing Street aide believes “that with early investment, Britain could become a world leader in the technology, which is only being developed by two firms”.

“Dom had become obsessed by this,” a Whitehall source said. “He’s the one who has been pushing it despite huge scepticism from officials. But he’s got his way.”

The officials are not alone in voicing doubts about the plan.

Although DAC is a “tool that could potentially help in several places where current clean energy technologies are lacking”, says Vox, “the ability to pull carbon out of the air is not a silver bullet”. 

“It is not the cheapest or most effective way to fight climate change. It won’t allow us to bypass any of the hard work of reducing our emissions,” the news site adds.

Yet “some in Whitehall fear that it could distract from more conventional and proven projects to cut emissions”, such as the government’s pledge to spend £9m insulating Britain’s homes, says The Times.

And while two companies have built functioning DAC plants, the process is expensive. “At the moment, it costs nearly £500 to remove a single tonne of CO2,” the paper reports.

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