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ENVI wants EU certification scheme to boost carbon removals uptake

ENVI wants EU certification scheme to boost carbon removals uptake
Bagging biochar from a biomass-fired combined heat and power (CHP) district heating plant in Austria. Using pyrogenic carbon capture and storage (PyCCS), a negative emission technology (NET), the plant is an example of what Bioenergy Europe says is missing from the Commission's Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA) proposal.

In Europe, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety (ENVI) has adopted its position on a new voluntary EU certification framework for technological and natural carbon removals to help achieve EU climate neutrality by 2050. ENVI adopted its position on the establishment of a Union certification framework for carbon removals (CFCR) with 59 votes to 17 and 9 abstentions.

In April 2023, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution on Sustainable carbon cycles saying that while the EU must always prioritize swift and predictable reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, carbon removals must play a growing role in achieving EU climate neutrality by 2050 to balance out emissions that cannot be eliminated.

While environment MEPs stress that reducing GHG emissions must remain a 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.

Certification needed

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 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 analyze trends and advise the Commission on the technical certification methodologies.

BECCS is a permanent carbon removal technology

MEPs stress the need to distinguish the definitions, quality criteria, and rules on the use of activities regarding carbon removals, carbon farming, and carbon storage in products due to their different specificities and environmental impact.

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 (BECCS) and direct air carbon capture and storage, or through permanently bound carbon mineralization, 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 results 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.

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, commented rapporteur Lídia Pereira (EPP, PT) after the vote.

The EP is scheduled to adopt its mandate during the November 20-23 plenary session after which it is ready to start negotiations with EU member states.

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