EU Moves to Certify Carbon Removal

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – Increased measurement accuracy, evidence of additionality, and clear links to sustainability objectives are some of the key elements of the new European Union (EU) proposals for a certification framework for carbon removal processes approved by the Commission on 20 February 2024.  The legislation aims to cover the full range of carbon removal programmes including technology-based direct air capture as well as nature-based carbon sinks involving the restoration and preservation of forests or wetlands.

    The EU recently approved new rules prohibiting the use of various marketing claims of carbon neutrality based on carbon offsetting.  The current proposals are targeted at carbon removal designed to be employed only when other emission reduction efforts have been exhausted.  The global voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) have been beset by a series of controversies involving incidences of double counting of carbon credits or insufficient evidence of the carbon removal credentials of underlying projects.  Moreover, carbon capture, usage, and storage (CCUS) has been strongly promoted by the fossil fuel industry as a core solution to climate change despite doubts about the scalability and viability of the as-yet-unproven technologies concerned.  Nevertheless, the EU considers the compensation of residual emissions via carbon removal to be an essential component in its net-zero 2050 plan.  It aims to restore confidence in the sector by implementing the proposed EU-wide certification framework.

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    The certification will apply to nature-based solutions involving the restoration of forests and soils as well as beneficial changes in agricultural practices.  It also covers technological solutions such as bioenergy with CCUS and direct air capture.  Finally, producers and users of sustainable construction materials like timber may also seek certification under the framework.  With some oil producers using CCUS to pump captured carbon dioxide into oil wells as part of a technique known as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), the EU proposals make it clear that any carbon removal must be linked to well-defined sustainability objectives such as climate change mitigation, biodiversity restoration, or the protection of natural resources such as water.

    Quantifiable, additional, long-term, and sustainability-linked

    Certified schemes will need to demonstrate additionality by showing evidence that they go beyond legally required, standard practices.  There will also be a requirement for long-term, ideally permanent carbon storage.  The EU hopes that the widespread use of carbon removal certificates under the proposals will create a fluid, efficient carbon market free from prior incidences of greenwashing.  European businesses, farmers, foresters, and other stakeholders should be able to benefit from public funding as well private sector funding from the likes of large food manufacturers.  The VCMs, impact finance, and materials industries all stand to benefit from greater confidence in the new framework.

    Following this latest agreement within the European Commission, the proposals will need to be approved by the EU Council and Parliament before becoming law.

    Image courtesy of Malte Reimold from Pixabay
    Richard Tyszkiewicz
    Richard Tyszkiewicz
    Richard has over 30 years’ experience in the international investment industry. He has worked closely with major Nordic investors on consultancy projects, focusing on the evaluation of external asset managers. While doing so, Richard built up a strong practical understanding of the challenges faced by institutional investors seeking to integrate ESG into their portfolios. Richard has an MA degree in Management and Spanish from St Andrews University, and sustainability qualifications from Cambridge University, PRI and the CFA Institute.
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