Legislative proposal on a Union certification framework for carbon removals.

In “A European Green Deal”

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The European Commission's 2022 work programme included a legislative proposal for carbon removal certification. On 15 December 2021, the Commission adopted the communication on sustainable carbon cycles, which addresses the need for a regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals. From 7 February to 2 May 2022 the Commission simultaneously held a call for evidence and a public consultation on a Union carbon removal certification framework.

The idea of a carbon removal certification scheme has been mentioned both in the 2020 New Circular Economy Action Plan (see separate file) and in the 2021 LULUCF revision proposal (see separate file). According to the Commission the aim is to deliver a common EU standard and a reliable certification framework with high environmental integrity. Carbon removal certification has further been mentioned as a potential preamble to establishing a carbon trading system for land sector removals, from 2030, though this is 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 legislative proposal was adopted by the Commission on 30 November 2022 and was accompanied by an impact assessment.

The Commission proposes 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 will 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 would assist 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 is presented to be followed by the certification body in order to register final carbon removal certificates and minimum competence conditions for auditors are set out. Certification schemes under the Union framework must 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 is proposed three years after entry into force and no later than 2028, and subsequently after each stocktaking exercise under the Paris agreement.

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

The Committee of the Regions (COR) adopted its opinion on the file on 8 February 2023. COR rapporteur is Loïg Chesnais-Girard (France/PES). 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. At the EESC the rapporteur is Stoyan Tchoukanov (Bulgaria/Civil Society Organisations’ Group (Group III)). The EESC opinion agree with the need for a robust framework to grow carbon removal capacities in Europe. It warns however of the risks of greenwashing and 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 their meeting of 16 March 2023 the Environment Council held a first policy debate on the file. 

On 18 April 2023, the European Parliament adopted its own-initiative resolution on the topic of Sustainable Carbon Cycles. In this, Parliament calls to move up the target date from 2028 to 2026, for providing verified emissions and removal data from farms. Further the need to ensure a robust system to avoid double counting and also to address liability issues in case of reversals of carbon removals is highlighted.

The rapporteur's draft report was released on 10 May 2023 and presented during the ENVI meeting of 24 May 2023. Just under 1000 amendments have been tabled, with the Committee vote foreseen for 2 October 2023. 


Further reading:

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

Visit the European Parliament pages on climate change.

As of 20/08/2023.