EU agrees carbon removals framework

  • : Emissions
  • 24/02/20

Negotiators for the European Parliament and EU member states have provisionally agreed on a regulation establishing an EU carbon removal certification framework. Parliament said the new rules will allow for farmers to receive payments for carbon removals and set minimum sustainability requirements for carbon farming activities.

The provisional agreement paves the way for formal adoption by parliament and EU member states, possibly before the EU elections in June. The new voluntary EU certification framework for carbon removals covers permanent carbon storage through industrial technology, carbon storage in long-lasting products, as well as carbon farming.

Parliament noted an extended scope covering carbon farming activities that cut emissions from agricultural soils. And livestock methane emissions reduction is to be included on the basis of a review in 2026. Permanent carbon removals are defined as storing carbon for at least 35 years. And carbon farming activities must continue for at least five years.

The agreement also foresees carbon removals and emissions cuts as contributing to achieving the EU's nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — emissions reduction pledges — to the Paris climate agreement. And the European Commission will establish an EU registry for carbon removals and soil emissions reductions within four years of the regulation's entry into force.

European waste-to-energy association Eswet noted the specific recognition of biogenic permanent carbon removal via bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. Eswet called for the carbon removals certification framework to interact with the EU's emissions trading system (ETS) so as to provide incentives to remove carbon and accelerate to net zero emissions, which the EU is legally mandated to reach by 2050.

But non-governmental organisation Carbon Market Watch (CMW) was more negative, calling for parliament and member states to reject the regulation.

The units certified under the framework risk being double-counted by both voluntary carbon markets and as part of the EU's NDCs and climate policies, CMW warned. And sustainability criteria for biomass are not strict enough, probably leading to increased biomass demand.

But CMW does see some positive elements, such as biodiversity conditions for carbon farming and a periodic review into the impact of biomass. CMW further said the framework's units will "initially" be ineligible for use under non-EU member state NDCs or the UN's carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation (Corsia).

"The EU should have banned offsetting in voluntary and compliance frameworks, such as the EU ETS and Corsia, and double-counting rather than allow the carbon removal certification framework to slow down decarbonisation efforts," Wijnand Stoefs, CMW's lead on carbon removals, said.

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