Carbon removals needed to complement the top priority of reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Certification framework to ensure high quality carbon removals and counter greenwashing
Need to distinguish between carbon removals, carbon farming and carbon storage in products
Environment MEPs have adopted their position on a new voluntary EU certification framework for technological and natural carbon removals to help achieve EU climate neutrality by 2050.
The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has today adopted its position on the establishment of a Union certification framework for carbon removals (CFCR) with 59 votes to 17 and 9 abstentions.
While MEPs stress that reducing greenhouse (GHG) emissions must remain top priority for the EU, they support this first EU-wide voluntary CFCR, which will improve the EU’s capacity to quantify, monitor and verify carbon removals. The aim is to accelerate their deployment, build trust with stakeholders and industry and help counter greenwashing by ensuring that all operators apply the same rules. The Commission will be tasked to develop certification methodologies for the different activities. MEPs stress that the scheme must be in line with international and scientific standards and that the Commission should be in charge of a ‘Union registry’, to ensure transparency of the scheme, provide information to the public, and to avoid the risk of fraud and double counting of carbon removals..
MEPs also suggest to set-up a Platform on Carbon Removal, Carbon Farming and Carbon Storage in Product Activities consisting of experts from academia, civil society and stakeholders including farmers and forest owners to monitor and analyse trends and advise the Commission on the technical certification methodologies.
MEPs stress the need to distinguish the definitions, quality criteria and the rules on the use of activities regarding carbon removals, carbon farming and carbon storage in products due to their different specificities and environmental impact.
Innovative carbon removal technologies
MEPs say that carbon removals must be able to store atmospheric or biogenic carbon for several centuries to be certified. Geological storage, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage and direct air carbon capture and storage, or through permanently bound carbon mineralisation, should therefore be considered permanent carbon removals.
Carbon farming and carbon storage in products
Carbon farming is an activity related to land management, coastal management or animal husbandry that result in carbon farming sequestration or carbon farming emission reductions. MEPs want to add the criteria that for an activity to count as ‘carbon farming’ it must lead to emission reductions for a period of at least five years. They also underline that carbon farming activities should not negatively affect the EU’s food security or lead to land grabbing or land speculation.
To ensure long-term carbon storage, the certification of carbon storage in products should initially be limited to harvested wood products or materials for construction storing carbon for at least five decades.
Finally, MEPs want to include an obligation for the Commission to report on the need for a legislative proposal on the establishment of EU targets for permanent carbon removals and for land-based sequestration as part of the post-2030 EU climate framework.
After the vote, rapporteur Lídia Pereira (EPP, PT) said: “Climate change is already so serious that we cannot rely solely on emissions reductions but also need to remove carbon. This framework is the tool that makes this possible, as we are advancing with rules to regulate a market that has been plagued by greenwashing, lack of clarity and distrust. Certification will help attract private investment to climate removal projects, thereby assisting us in our climate transition and furthering Europe's climate leadership.”
Parliament is scheduled to adopt its mandate during the 20-23 November 2023 plenary session after which it is ready to start negotiations with EU member states.
In April 2023, Parliament adopted a resolution on Sustainable carbon cycles saying that while the EU must always prioritise swift and predictable reductions of GHG emissions, carbon removals must play a growing role in achieving EU climate neutrality by 2050 to balance out emissions that cannot be eliminated.