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The New EU's Carbon Removal Certification Framework

This image displays a declining bar graph made of green grass texture, with the chemical formula "CO2" above, indicating a focus on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

The European Union (EU) has taken a significant step forward in its commitment to achieving climate neutrality by 2050 with the provisional agreement to establish the first EU-level certification framework for carbon removals.

This groundbreaking regulation aims to certify permanent carbon removals, carbon farming, and carbon storage in products. The provisional agreement, reached between the Council and the European Parliament negotiators, is a testament to the EU's dedication to fostering high-quality carbon removal and soil emission reduction activities within its member states.

This initiative is not only pivotal for the EU's ambitious climate neutrality goal but also sets a precedent for comprehensively integrating carbon removal schemes into EU climate policy.

Understanding the Carbon Removal Certification Framework

The framework's scope is expansive, adhering to an open definition of carbon removals aligned with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It encompasses atmospheric or biogenic carbon removals, covering various activities and differentiating between four types of units: permanent carbon removal, temporary carbon storage in long-lasting products, temporary carbon storage from carbon farming, and soil emission reduction from carbon farming.

This extension beyond the Commission’s initial proposal to include soil emission reductions marks a significant advancement in the regulation's reach.

By 2026, the Commission is expected to evaluate the feasibility of certifying activities that reduce emissions beyond soil-related ones, indicating a commitment to expanding the framework’s coverage.

Activities outside the scope, such as avoided deforestation and renewable energy projects, highlight the targeted approach of this regulation towards direct carbon removal and emission reductions.

Certification Criteria and Procedure

The certification process meets stringent criteria, including quantification, additionality, long-term storage, and sustainability. These standards ensure that carbon removal activities provide genuine climate benefits.

The development of tailored certification methodologies by the Commission, with expert assistance, aims for harmonized, accurate, and cost-effective implementation. Changes in the co-legislators agreement refine these criteria and prioritize certain activities, demonstrating an adaptive and responsive regulatory approach.

Sustainability considerations, especially for carbon farming, mandate biodiversity co-benefits, showcasing the EU’s holistic approach to environmental integrity.

Additionally, the agreement gives member states the option to guide farmers through the certification process, promoting synergy with existing agricultural policies.

Carbon Net Benefit and Monitoring

The creation of certified units corresponding to one metric tonne of CO2 equivalent of net benefit underscores the tangible outcomes expected from this framework.

Restrictions on the use of these units for EU climate objectives ensure that the benefits contribute directly to the EU’s climate goals, avoiding potential exploitation for external or speculative purposes.

Clear monitoring obligations and liability rules set a rigorous standard for accountability, addressing any potential reversal of carbon removal benefits. The establishment of a common and transparent EU-wide registry further enhances transparency and public trust in the certification process.

Next Steps and Background

The provisional agreement awaits formal adoption by the Council and Parliament, a necessary step towards its implementation. This regulation represents a critical component of the EU’s broader climate strategy, which emphasizes the urgent need to scale up carbon removals alongside rapid GHG emission reductions.

As part of the European Green Deal, the proposal for this certification framework was introduced in 2022, aiming to stimulate the development of carbon removal technologies and sustainable carbon farming solutions. It seeks to establish clear rules for quantifying, monitoring, and verifying carbon removals, crucial for combating greenwashing and fostering trust in carbon removal efforts.

A milestone in Climate Action Efforts

The EU's provisional agreement on the carbon removal certification framework marks a milestone in climate action efforts. By establishing clear, rigorous standards for carbon removal activities, the EU not only advances its climate neutrality ambitions but also sets a global precedent for integrating carbon removal into climate policy.

This initiative reflects a comprehensive approach to addressing climate change, recognizing the importance of both reducing emissions and actively removing carbon from the atmosphere. As the framework moves toward formal adoption and implementation, it represents a hopeful stride toward a more sustainable and resilient future.


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