When Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with $3.5 billion in funding for DAC hubs, they created a historic opportunity to deploy high-quality, just, and equitable carbon removal at scale. But how do we define success in a space that’s only just now emerging? At Carbon180, we see these early hubs as a chance to deliver for the economy, climate, and communities that surround these projects — all while accelerating innovation in the field and understanding across the broader public. That’s a tall order, but a clear rubric will set the foundation we need to go forward confidently.

What is a DAC hub?

DAC uses a combination of large fans and chemical processes to pull existing CO₂ out of the sky. That CO₂ can then be stored permanently underground in rocks or in products like concrete. DAC hubs are projects, or clusters of projects built in close proximity to one another, with capacity to remove a million metric tons of CO₂ or more per year. With two commercial-scale direct air capture facilities and 19 earlier stage projects already funded by the Regional DAC Hubs program, the work will range from feasibility assessments and front-end engineering design studies to operationalization.

Image credit: Climeworks

While the “hub” concept is fairly new in the carbon removal field, it’s a proven model that allows developers with common infrastructure needs to co-locate and collaborate. That clustering has a number of benefits: it allows them to attract skilled employees, drive down costs, streamline permits, and more.

Moving beyond technical benefits to a framework for success

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How Direct Air Capture Succeeds


Traditionally, climate projects have been graded on cost, efficiency, scalability, and durability. While important, looking at those metrics alone risks missing the full picture of how the work gets done, and some of the long-lasting community impacts of these projects. The impact on local communities, for example, isn’t always accounted for on traditional climate project rubrics, and that’s led to some harmful cycles.

In our framework for DAC hub deployments, we’ve identified four key imperatives to change that. With it, our goal is to provide steady guidance for moving through the technical and social challenges these hub projects will inevitably face.

  • Center climate and environmental justice

    DAC hubs need to rapidly remove carbon in a high quality way. To achieve that, projects have to avoid enabling fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure and instead commit fully to climate and environmental justice, breaking from historical patterns of harm to BIPOC and low-income communities.

  • Empower and engage communities

    Early and meaningful public engagement — providing dedicated funding, time, and space for two-way dialogue — will help make sure that the decision-making processes around these projects are equitable and their benefits flow back to communities.

  • Take a portfolio approach

    Technology is a game of constant improvement and iteration. We should invest in a portfolio of DAC technologies and enable the incubation of less-established approaches to accelerate innovation in the field.

  • Share information honestly to enable innovation and oversight

    To build trust with communities and catalyze innovation, DAC hubs should champion open practices for sharing information and learnings. Reporting on project progress, challenges, and operations won’t just help maximize deployment efforts, it’ll also provide transparency with taxpayer money and foster community trust.

Who will make DAC hubs a success?

From the builders and engineers on site to the federal organizations in DC, DAC hubs require an immense amount of coordination and consideration to get up and running. DAC hub projects should prioritize sourcing from local businesses and contractors, pay at or above the prevailing wage, and commit to codifying long-term project labor agreements and community benefits agreements. 

While the Department of Energy (DOE) will lead the way in setting these precedents, there’s a constellation of other stakeholders that will each have their own interests in the Hubs program. For implementation to succeed, they’ll need to communicate and collaborate closely, holding each other accountable and providing checks and balances as their responsibilities shift over time.

Enhanced oil recovery has no place in the Regional DAC Hubs program

Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) is controversial. The process of pumping CO₂ into oil reservoirs could theoretically drive down DAC costs, but it’s a process designed to produce more oil — exactly the opposite of what we need to be doing.

At Carbon180, our stance on the matter is clear: we do not support EOR. We think carbon removal will only succeed if it’s deployed in equitable and just ways, in places that want to host projects, and with benefits that flow to local communities. For many EJ groups and for us, that vision is antithetical to sustaining fossil fuel infrastructure, including EOR. Beyond that, the DAC Hubs program is a taxpayer-funded investment meant to help de-risk an emerging technology core to addressing climate change, which EOR is not.

The decisions we make today will last for decades to come; we can’t afford to invest a single penny more of our taxpayer dollars into a practice that entangles us with fossil fuels and threatens the long-term integrity of the entire carbon removal field.

Our vision for carbon removal, one that we’ll explore with CALDAC, is a future where communities not only have a seat at the table, but where their priorities, needs, values, and voices are the driving force behind the climate and energy transition and resulting projects.

Vanessa SuarezVanessa SuarezManaging Environmental Justice Advisor

Living these principles through community-led CALDAC

The DAC Hubs program is in its early stages, shaping the broader sector by taking a learn-by-doing approach to drive down costs, speed up deployment, and deliver tangible benefits to communities. We’re excited to directly contribute to this critical moment through our work with CALDAC, a coalition of universities, NGOs, and companies with ambitions to create a community-led DAC hub. As part of CALDAC, we’ll help figure out what that could look like.

To start, we’ll be focused on engaging with local community groups to determine their interest, vision, and goals for a potential hub in their neighborhood. Our involvement could be far-reaching: partnering with local environmental justice and community-based organizations, creating a regionally relevant carbon removal curriculum, setting up a community oversight council, hosting community dialogues, and regranting funds from DOE to various community organizations.

Through it all, our goal is to establish a shared vision with the people living in the San Joaquin Valley for what a local DAC hub that centers justice and equity could look like.