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. The legislative proposal was adopted by the Commission on 30 November 2022 and was accompanied by an impact assessment. The proposal was informed by a call for evidence and public consultation executed between February and May 2022.

The December 2021 communication on sustainable carbon cycles, addresses the need for a regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals and outlines relevant sectors and approaches for circular carbon management. The idea of a carbon removal certification scheme was mentioned in the 2020 New Circular Economy Action Plan (see separate file) and in the 2021 LULUCF revision proposal (see separate file). 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 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 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 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 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.

On 18 April 2023, the European Parliament adopted its own-initiative resolution on the topic of Sustainable Carbon Cycles. In this, Parliament calls for providing, already from 2026, 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 carbon removals reversals is highlighted.

During their 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. 

In Parliament, the rapporteur's draft report was released on 10 May 2023. The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) adopted its opinion on 28 June 2023 and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) adopted its opinion on 28 August 2023. Over 1000 amendments were received. The committee vote on the draft report took place on 24 October 2023. On 21 November 2023, Parliament voted its negotiating position on the file, 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. 

Inter-institutional negotiations have begun. Two meetings have taken place and a third one is planned. An agreement is expected to be reached within this legislature. 

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Further reading:

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

Visit the European Parliament pages on climate change.

As of 20/01/2024.