Towards a European Certification Framework for Carbon Removals




In the quest for climate neutrality by 2050, the European Parliament has taken a decisive step forward, endorsing a new EU certification scheme designed to amplify the uptake of carbon removal technologies and nature based solutions. The EU certification framework for carbon removals, carbon farming and carbon storage in products isn’t just a stride towards environmental sustainability; it is a potential game-changer for the agrifood sector, with carbon farming at its core.

Carbon farming, as defined by the Parliament’s proposal, encompasses land and coastal management, as well as farming practices that lead to significant carbon sequestration or emission reductions. For an activity to be recognized as carbon farming, it must ensure emission reductions for at least five years. Moreover, the certification framework addresses a critical need for transparency and credibility in the carbon removal market. A Platform on Carbon Removal, Carbon Farming, and Carbon Storage in Product Activities would bring together experts from academia, civil society, and industry to oversee and advise on the technicalities of certification methodologies.

The EU certification framework aims to counter greenwashing and foster carbon removal, carbon farming, and carbon storage activities that provide a clear net benefit. Specifically in the case of carbon farming, it will also support biodiversity preservation to achieve EU’s nature restoration goals.

The emphasis on carbon farming also underscores a pivotal point: climate action and food security must go hand in hand. The Parliament’s framework makes it clear that carbon farming should not come at the expense of Europe’s ability to feed its people. It’s a delicate balance, ensuring that while we harness our lands to capture carbon, we also protect them to sustainably produce food.

For farmers across Europe, this translates into a new avenue for diversifying income and contributing to Europe’s goal of reaching climate neutrality. Practices that can lock carbon into the soil range from agroforestry to improved crop rotations, pasture management and mixed cropping. For agrifood companies, the net is tightening around weak sustainability commitments as it will be prohibited to claim product carbon neutrality based on offsetting.

As we await the Parliament’s mandate, set to be adopted in a plenary session before discussions with EU member states commence, we are optimistic about the direction taken. Rapporteur Lídia Pereira’s words resonate with the urgency of our times: “Climate change is already so serious that we cannot rely solely on emissions reductions but also need to remove carbon.” This framework, therefore, isn’t just about regulation; it’s a tool to foster private investment and public confidence in carbon removal projects.

Cover image credits: Steven Lek, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

February 2024 update: the European Parliament and Council reached a provisional political agreement on the Carbon Removal Certification Framework. The next step is for them to formally approve the agreement, then the new legislation will be published in the Official Journal of the Union and enter into force.

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