Legislative proposal on a Union certification framework for carbon removals.

In “A European Green Deal”

PDF version

As planned in its 2022 work programme, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal for carbon removal certification, accompanied by an impact assessment on 30 November 2022. A call for evidence and public consultation was held from February to May 2022.

The linked December 2021 communication on sustainable carbon cycles, noted the need for a regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals and approaches for circular carbon management. The idea was mentioned in the 2020 New Circular Economy Action Plan (see separate file) and in the 2021 LULUCF revision proposal (see separate file). Certification has been noted as a potential preamble for a carbon trading system for land sector removals, though this was not mentioned in the proposal put forward. The 7 April 2022 Council conclusions regarding carbon farming note the need for a flexible yet administratively lean scheme to consider Member States differences. Council invited the Commission to explore a wider range of practices relevant to agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at farm level as well as the economic value of associated co-benefits, such as biodiversity gains. 

The Commission proposed a Regulation to establish a Union certification framework for carbon removals. The regulation would aim to facilitate the deployment of high-quality carbon removals. Certification would be based on four overarching criteria for which detailed methodologies would be developed through subsequent delegated acts for different carbon removal activities. The criteria are: 1) Quantification, 2) Additionality and baselines, 3) Long-term storage, and 4) Sustainability, for which the Commission uses the acronym QU.A.L.ITY.

The Commission would be responsible for recognising certification schemes which comply with the Union Framework criteria through Commission decisions. Schemes would further have requirements regarding transparency into their day-to-day operation, should ensure independent verification of carbon removals and full disclosure of all information related to certified carbon removals.

Carbon removals would only be eligible under the Union Framework if they apply the QU.A.L.ITY criteria under the relevant methodology depending on the carbon removal activity and are independently verified by a certification body. Certification is voluntary.

An expert Group on Carbon Removals assists the Commission in developing the technical certification methodologies. Annex 1 of the proposal lists elements to be included in the methodologies.

A two-step procedure was presented, to be followed by the certification body in order to register final carbon removal certificates. Minimum competence conditions for auditors were set out. Certification schemes under the Union framework should provide public registries based on automated and interoperable systems. Member States would be obligated to supervise the operation of nationally registered certification bodies.

A review of the regulation was proposed three years after the entry into force and no later than 2028, and subsequently after each stocktaking exercise under the Paris agreement.

Lídia Perreira (EPP, Portugal) was appointed rapporteur by the ENVI Committee.

The Committee of the Regions (COR) adopted its opinion on the file on 8 February 2023. Loïg Chesnais-Girard (France/PES) is rapporteur. The COR opinion calls for an increased recognition of the role of local and regional authorities, in particular as regards carbon farming. Further, the opinion calls for a more holistic approach with a set of agroecology and soil preservation practices to ensure low-carbon agriculture, rather than a mere economic model.

On 22 March, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted its opinion on the file. Stoyan Tchoukanov (Bulgaria/Civil Society Organisations’ Group (Group III)) is rapporteur. The EESC opinion agrees with the need for a robust framework to grow carbon removal capacities in Europe. It calls for increased clarity and distinction on which claims can be made on the basis of which types of carbon removals in terms of risks of reversals. The EESC finds that new funding will be necessary as they consider that the Common Agricultural Policy should focus on food, feed and biomass, not carbon removals. They call for inclusion of civil society in the expert panel established to develop methodologies.

During its meeting of 16 March 2023, the Environment Council held a first policy debate on the file. On 17 November 2023, Member States agreed their negotiating mandate on the file. 

Following ENVI's adoption of the Committee report on 24 October 2023, Parliament voted its negotiating position on the file on 21 November, following closely the ENVI report. Parliament's position in particular makes the point to differentiate between types of removals as well as the requirement linked to them. 

A provisional agreement was reached on 19 February 2024.

Key changes include a differentiation between specific types of carbon removals and an expansion of the scope to include soil emission reductions. These changes involve a modification of the title of the regulation.

For activities relating to carbon farming, the agreement specifies a minimum duration of five years and provisions against land speculation to protect rural communities. Carbon farming must always deliver at least a biodiversity co-benefit under the sustainability objectives.

Provisions are also added regarding the use of units and liabilities in case of reversals. A Union registry will be established and a special review is planned for 2026 to evaluate further carbon farming activities and to assess any needs to review aspects to ensure continued alignment with the Paris Agreement article 6.

The text was adopted by the Parliament on 10 April 2024 and will be confirmed by the new Parliament before the final sign-off from Council, signature ceremony and publication in the Official Journal, leading to it entering into force. 

References:

Further reading:

Author: Liselotte Jensen, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Visit the European Parliament pages on climate change.

As of 20/06/2024.