Frontier, a Stripe subsidiary, will deploy $925 million over the next nine years to purchase carbon removal in advance from companies working to develop solutions in the space.
By using such advanced agreements, "Frontier aims to send a strong demand signal to researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors that there is a market for carbon removal."
The initiative aims to spur the development of solutions aimed at scrubbing carbon from the atmosphere; technologies often neglected in favor of advancing clean-energy solutions.
According to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 6 billion tons of carbon must be removed per year by 2050 from the atmosphere if warming is to remain 1.5 degrees Celsius under pre-industrial levels. And yet, to date, existing carbon removal technologies have captured only 10,000 tons of CO2.
Frontier's launch and recent government initiatives signal that carbon capture is increasingly being taken seriously as a climate-mitigation measure in both the public and private sectors.
The US bipartisan infrastructure bill, for instance, contained $3.5 billion in direct investment in the technology. At the same time, both the European Union and the UK have jointly committed to removing 5 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.
"Sentiment is changing about both carbon capture and carbon dioxide removal," Julio Friedmann, chief scientist at Carbon Direct, told CNBC. "This is changing in part because we are not succeeding on climate at the speed and scale required. In short: We're failing and we need a bigger boat - one that includes all serious options for mitigation."
Frontier plans to provide further details about its investments by year's end.
In short, Frontier will pay potential partners a certain amount for every ton of carbon their tech takes out of the atmosphere. Meanwhile, any project Frontier invests in must be able to store CO2 for at least 1,000 years and cost no more than $100 per ton by 2040, among other metrics covering permanence, cost, capacity, footprint, justice, and others.
Such an arrangement is known as an advanced market commitment or AMC. When technology, in this case, carbon capture, initially appears unprofitable, AMCs give private companies the initial assurance needed to invest and develop these and other vital technologies.
Recently, governments, by agreeing to spend billions on doses up-front, gave big pharma the financial incentive it needed to spearhead the development of Covid-19 vaccines, demonstrating the power these arrangements have to spur initiative in the private sector.
"Even the most conservative climate models say we need to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to avert the worst of the climate crisis. Many cool technologies exist but they don't have a market for their product," tweeted Mike Schroepfer, Meta's former CTO about his former company's partnership.
Others aren't so enthusiastic.
"Honestly, I really wish these same companies were investing the same amount of money in clean energy solutions," Michael E. Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State told CNBC. According to Mann, there is "no evidence" that carbon removal technologies can brought to scale in the time frame necessary to prevent catastrophic over-warming, adding that emissions will need to be cut by 50% by the end of the decade.
"What we need is to solve this problem at its source, not apply Band-Aids at the edges."