The Role of Carbon Removal in the Fight Against Climate Change: A Bold New Step by the European Parliament

Climate change presents one of the most significant challenges of our time. While reducing greenhouse gas emissions is paramount, we can’t ignore the importance of carbon removal in achieving climate neutrality. In this context, the European Parliament has recently taken a bold new step.

The Emergence of a New Certification Framework

The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has adopted a position concerning a union certification framework for carbon removals (CFCR). This move, supported by the majority of MEPs, aims to improve the EU’s ability to quantify, monitor, and verify carbon removals.

The adoption of an EU-wide voluntary CFCR is expected to accelerate carbon removal deployment, build trust with stakeholders and industry, and counter greenwashing by ensuring uniform rules for all operators.

The Role of The Commission in the New Framework

The Commission has been given a crucial role in this new framework. It will be responsible for developing certification methodologies for various activities related to carbon removal.

The scheme must adhere to international and scientific standards, with the Commission charged with managing a ‘Union registry’. This registry will ensure transparency, provide public information, and mitigate the risk of fraud and double counting of carbon removals.

The Proposed Platform on Carbon Removal

The European Parliament suggests the establishment of a Platform on Carbon Removal, Carbon Farming and Carbon Storage in Product Activities. This platform, comprising experts from academia, civil society, and stakeholders including farmers and forest owners, will monitor trends and advise the Commission on technical certification methodologies.

Defining Carbon Removal, Carbon Farming, and Carbon Storage

The European Parliament emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between carbon removals, carbon farming, and carbon storage in products, based on their unique characteristics and environmental impact.

Carbon Removal Technologies

MEPs propose that certified carbon removals should be capable of storing atmospheric or biogenic carbon for several centuries. Consequently, geological storage options, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, direct air carbon capture and storage, or permanently bound carbon mineralisation, are considered permanent carbon removals.

Carbon Farming and Carbon Storage in Products

Carbon farming refers to activities related to land management, coastal management, or animal husbandry that result in carbon farming sequestration or emission reductions.

To be classified as ‘carbon farming’, an activity must lead to emission reductions for a period of at least five years. Moreover, these activities should not harm the EU’s food security or lead to land grabbing or speculation.

Meanwhile, the certification of carbon storage in products should initially be limited to harvested wood products or construction materials storing carbon for a minimum of five decades.

The Commission’s Obligation

The European Parliament also recommends that the Commission should report on the need for a legislative proposal establishing EU targets for permanent carbon removals and for land-based sequestration as part of the post-2030 EU climate framework.

The Impact of Carbon Removal on Climate Neutrality

According to the rapporteur Lídia Pereira (EPP, PT), climate change has become so severe that relying solely on emissions reductions is no longer sufficient. Pereira acknowledges the critical role of the new carbon removal framework in tackling climate change and boosting Europe’s climate leadership.

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The Way Forward

The Parliament is set to adopt its mandate during the 20-23 November 2023 plenary session. Following this, it will be ready to begin negotiations with EU member states.

Conclusion

In April 2023, the Parliament adopted a resolution on Sustainable carbon cycles, stating that while reducing GHG emissions remains the EU’s top priority, carbon removals must play an increasingly significant role in achieving EU climate neutrality by 2050.

The recent move by the European Parliament signifies a crucial step forward in the fight against climate change. The new voluntary EU certification framework for carbon removals, supported by the development of a robust certification methodology, promises a more sustainable and climate-neutral future.

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