Instead, public funding should finance public enterprises, thereby reducing the need for commercialization and increasing technology sharing. These public funds should be financed by taxes and levies on polluters and extractive industries, current and historic, forcing companies to compensate for their role in the climate crisis.
Public carbon removal would also have broad social benefit by recognizing the interconnectedness of our economic system and the climate crisis. Imagine a community-run regional carbon removal authority that simultaneously pursues wetland restoration and forest management, safely operates an industrial disposal facility and associated mining and geological sequestration operations, monitors levels carbon in forests and works with farmers to maintain healthy fields that store carbon in the soil. The same organization could set up retraining programs, run by democratically controlled unions, to draw workers away from polluting industries, including workers at fossil fuel companies who already have carbon removal expertise. This will have the added benefit of facilitating the phasing out of fossil fuels by ensuring that workers are protected by their communities during a just transition. Ambitious policies will win additional support from workers and voters by enabling them to participate in improving their own material conditions.
There are several approaches to governing this type of carbon removal authority. Like the rural electrification cooperatives that powered much of the United States during the New Deal, carbon removal cooperatives could be collectively owned. Moving co-ops must elect their leaders directly by the local community. To avoid repeating the failures of the New Deal to improve the lives of communities fairly, leadership seats could also be reserved for union members, environmental justice organizers and public health workers, to reflect key public priorities. Or rather, municipalities could directly own and operate carbon removal authority infrastructure, similar to water treatment facilities. In either case, direct referendums on major issues could ensure that community members shape policy and are held accountable, and a mandate to negotiate strong collective agreements would ensure that workers and local economies benefit.