In a Nutshell

The Just Transition Mechanism is the European Union’s main tool to ensure that the transition to a climate-neutral economy happens in a fair and just way. Through its three pillars, it aims to mobilise an estimated EUR 55 billion over 2021-2027 to support the European regions, sectors and workers most affected by the transition.

The EU regions identified as most at risk or overburdened by the transition, and thus most in need of justice-oriented policies, are those whose economies rely heavily on fossil fuel extraction and production, particularly coal. Poland, Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Spain face the greatest potential job losses in this sector.

The policy establishes three financial mechanisms to work towards a Europe-wide just transition: the Just Transition Fund (JTF), a dedicated transition scheme under InvestEU, and a loan facility provided by the European Investment Bank. Respectively, they offer grants, mobilise private investments and leverage public finance. Whereas the eligibility criteria for the JTF promote the diversification and modernisation of economies and the reskilling of workers, the other mechanisms are broader in scope and include a wide range of sectors.

As a nascent sector set to grow in scale and importance in the coming decades, carbon dioxide removal falls under the scope of the Just Transition Mechanism. To function, the EU CDR industry will need a large workforce, making it a natural candidate for reskilling programmes across multiple sectors, including academic research, engineering and technical jobs.

What's on the Horizon?

The eighth edition of the Just Transition Platform Conference will take place between 23 and 25 October in Brussels.

By June 2025, the Commission will need to review the implementation of the Joint Transition Fund.

Each member state has a national share reserved under the Public Sector Loan Facility until 31 December 2025. There are regular deadlines to apply for grants under the facility, with the next one on 17 January 2024.

The territorial Just Transition plans cover the period up to 2030.

Deep Dive

The Just Transition Fund

The JTF is the first pillar of the Just Transition Mechanism. The fund primarily supports the economic diversification and reconversion of the most affected regions through grants. EUR 17.5 billion was attributed to the fund through a regulation, with EUR 7.5 billion coming from the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027 (MFF) and EUR 10 billion from the NextGenerationEU for the period 2021-2023.

To access allocated funds, member states must prepare territorial just transition plans covering territories “most negatively affected based on the economic and social impacts resulting from the transition”. Special consideration should be given to islands and outermost regions.

The InvestEU “Just Transition” scheme

The second pillar of the JTM provides budgetary guarantees to ‘implementing partners’ that the EU Commission will provide direct or indirect financing. It can support investments detailed in national territorial just transition plans spanning a wide range of projects, including energy and transport infrastructure decarbonisation, economic diversification and social infrastructure. This scheme is expected to mobilise EUR 10-15 billion, coming mostly from the private sector, with some support from InvestEU implementing partners such as the European Investment Bank.

The public sector loan facility with the European Investment Bank

The third pillar of the JTM and its accompanying regulation provides a mix of EUR 1.5 billion in grants from the EU budget and approximately EUR 10 billion of loans from the European Investment Bank. A further EUR 18-25 billion of public investments is expected to be mobilised. The loan facility mainly targets energy and transport infrastructure, district heating networks, energy efficiency measures and social infrastructure. Applications must be linked to the relevant territorial just transition plan to demonstrate how the project supports specific national ‘green transitions’. Each member state is reserved a part of the budget under the facility until 2025, after which any unused amount will be made available to projects across the entire EU.

While the two other pillars of the JTM provide rather broad requirements, the Just Transition Fund outlines a specific list of actions and sectors that can be supported. CDR in its broadest sense could directly or indirectly fall under multiple categories. For example, it could help funnel productive investments in SMEs and investments in the creation of new firms. On the research side, CDR can be a destination for investments in research and innovation activities. On the social side, it could accompany the upskilling and reskilling of workers and job seekers. Finally, on the infrastructure side, it could be applied to upgrade district heating networks, especially combined heat and power plants, to unlock investments in the deployment of climate technology and systems, and for investments in renewable energy.

Evaluating the Just Transition Mechanism

Being the EU’s flagship mechanism to ensure no one is left behind in the green transition, the JTM’s main lever consists of requiring the development of territorial just transition plans. These are intended to ensure a high level of ambition whilst allowing civil society and the affected publics to have visibility over the just transition plan. There is also a certain degree of technical assistance provided for local public authorities, mostly through the Just Transition Platform, a one-stop shop platform providing information on all aspects of the JTM.

However, the JTM has several potential drawbacks. Firstly, the JTM might inadvertently reward countries that have delayed climate action by providing funds to member states with carbon-intensive industries that would not have decarbonisation plans otherwise. Secondly, the initial budget of the JTF was set at about EUR 44 billion, whereas it has now been downsized to EUR 17.5 billion, which will inevitably mean that fewer projects will be supported. Thirdly, the vision of fairness set out in the JTM and the European Green Deal in general has been criticised as a short-term, dirigiste solution to systemic challenges. Only specific sectors and regions are included, whereas other meaningful activities involving other types of actors and regions are left out of the JTM. Finally, the JTM’s operationalisation of climate justice is focused on those who are adversely affected by the transition, rather than on those who are adversely affected by climate change at large.

Timeline

11 December 2019
14 January 2020
28 May 2020
29 June - 3 July 2020
9 March 2021
July 2021
August 2021
11 December 2019

European Green Deal communication and announcement of the Just Transition Mechanism

14 January 2020

Commission adopts the Just Transition Fund Proposal

28 May 2020

Commission adopts the Public Sector Loan Facility Proposal

29 June - 3 July 2020

Launch of the Just Transition Platform

9 March 2021

Adoption of the InvestEU Guidelines, including guidelines for the Just Transition Special Scheme

July 2021

Entry into force of the Just Transition Fund Regulation

August 2021

Entry into force of the Public Sector Loan Facility Regulation

Unofficial Title

Just Transition Mechanism

Year

2021

In a Nutshell

The Directive for the Substantiation of Explicit Environmental Claims (Green Claims Directive) is a legislative proposal that aims to address and reduce greenwashing in consumer-facing commercial practices. It establishes minimum requirements on the substantiation and communication of voluntary environmental claims and labels that are not otherwise banned under the Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition.

To make green claims (including climate-related claims) about the environmental footprint of their products, services, and operations, companies will need to comprehensively demonstrate environmental impact and performance by submitting recognised scientific evidence and the latest technical knowledge. The Directive establishes specific requirements for distinguishing claims on environmental performance from common practice, legal obligations, and from other traders or products.

Environmental claims and labelling schemes will be verified by independent accredited bodies before being put on the market. Member states will nominate a competent national authority to supervise this process, monitor and verify the claims and substantiations on a regular basis. This monitoring will help the Commission evaluate where more specific requirements are needed and implement delegated acts accordingly.

Climate-related claims such as net zero or carbon neutrality claims based on carbon credits use, including carbon removal, fall under the remit of this Directive. To substantiate such claims companies must report offsetting and emissions data separately, specify whether offsetting relates to emissions reductions or carbon removals, and explain accurately the accounting methodology applied. Once approved and when communicating to consumers, climate-related claims must be accompanied by additional information detailing the extent of reliance on offsetting and whether it is based on emissions reductions or removals.

What's on the Horizon?

The Green Claims proposal by the European Commission is currently being discussed within the European Parliament and the Council, with the aim to come to an agreement on their positions as part of the ordinary legislative procedure, before entering interinstitutional negotiations.

2023-2024: The European Parliament and the Council will develop their positions separately.

Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition (ECGT):
  • The Council adopted its negotiating mandate regarding the ECGT Directive on 3 May. The mandate outlines the Council’s position on this directive which would lay the foundation for the Green Claims Directive.
  • The European Parliament on adopted its position on 11 May 2023, setting stricter conditions than the Commission proposal.
  • On 19 September 2023, the Council and the Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the ECGT Directive, banning carbon neutrality claims for products and services based on carbon offsetting, and setting stricter requirements for organisations to make claims based on future environmental performance. Complementing the Directive on Empowering Consumers, the Green Claims Directive will provide further guidance on the conditions to make substantiated environmental claims.
  • On 17 January 2024, the European Parliament adopted the provisional agreement on the ECGT Directive. After the Council adopts the final text, the directive will be published in the Official Journal of the EU, and member states will have 24 months to transpose it into national law.

Green Claims Directive (GCD):

  • The ENVI and IMCO Committee (joint committees responsible) adopted their report on 14 February 2024, which was adopted by the Parliament plenary on 12 March 2024.
  • The Council aims to adopt this file’s general approach on 17 June 2024.
  • 2024- 2025: Following trilogues between EU institutions, the Directive is expected to be formally adopted and transposed by member states.

Deep Dive

Policy Landscape

The Green Claims Directive complements the Empowering Consumers Directive published by the European Commission on 30 March 2022 within the EU. Together, they aim to improve the circularity of the EU’s economy and achieve climate neutrality. They set requirements to substantiate environmental claims made to consumers and other commercial practices.

Apart from the French ministerial decree n°2022-538, the Green Claims Directive is a first of its kind in the specificity with which it regulates environmental claims and addresses climate-neutrality claims. The French decree regulates advertising claims based on emission compensation projects. It has different requirements surrounding emissions reporting, compensation data, and net zero plans.

Aim

The Green Claims Directive proposal addresses the issue of greenwashing, increasingly prevalent in recent years. It seeks to standardise environmental claims and labels to improve transparency and credibility for consumers. The proposal aims to use delegated and implementing acts in the future to address substantiation methodologies for specific product groups and evolving commercial practices.

The preamble of the proposal states that climate-related claims are prone to being unclear and misleading, as they are often based on offsetting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through carbon credits of low environmental integrity and credibility, generated outside the company’s value chain and calculated based on methodologies that vary widely in transparency, accuracy, and consistency. Offsetting can also deter traders from reducing emissions in their own operations and value chains.

However, credible net zero claims have the potential to incentivise and drive the development of safe, just and sustainable carbon removals to transition towards real climate neutrality. Claims based on offsetting must be regulated through a robust and science-based system to prevent greenwashing.

Room for improvement

Unfortunately, the Green Claims Directive as it currently stands does not establish the necessary measures to do so:

  • The Directive does not align with scientific consensus as it allows offsetting through emissions reductions and avoidance to substantiate carbon neutrality claims. The IPCC’s definition of net zero is clear: balancing emissions with physical removals. Accordingly, offsetting projects that avoid emissions, but do not physically remove and store carbon, must be barred from use in substantiating claims about net climate impacts.
  • The proposal rightly requires companies to report GHG emissions separately from offsetting data, to disclose the share of their total emissions that are addressed through offsetting and whether these come from emission reductions or removals. This isn’t enough to monitor whether the claimed climate impacts are real. There is a need for more extensive disclosure on the types of carbon credits companies are purchasing (avoidance, reduction, removals), which emissions they are claiming compensation for, and the methodologies used to ensure integrity and correct accounting.
  • The proposal allows all types of offsetting without any clear criteria for which emissions they can compensate for, nor which climate claims they can substantiate. However, not all carbon storage is equal in terms of capacity, duration or reversal risk. This means that long-lived fossil fuel emissions otherwise impossible to abate can only be balanced by removals with high-durability storage in the geosphere where the carbon came from. Lower-durability removal and storage of carbon into the biosphere must be accelerated for its own sake, to halt and reverse the loss of ecosystems and natural carbon stocks but cannot be eligible to compensate for fossil fuel emissions. Failing to enshrine this non-fungibility principle in EU law would allow companies to continue offsetting their long-lived emissions through shorter-term carbon storage with higher risks of reversal.
  • Although the Directive encourages companies to use offsetting only for residual emissions, it provides no robust definition for what constitutes these residual or ‘hard-to-abate’ emissions. Without a sector-specific and measurable definition, companies can weaken emissions cutting efforts by manipulating the boundary between emissions that must be reduced’ and ‘emissions that physical removals can offset’. The EU will need to establish a transparent process for classifying emissions as difficult-to-decarbonise.
  • The proposal excludes from its scope environmental claims and labels substantiated by rules in the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF). However, the proposal for the CRCF has no rules for claim substantiation. Instead, the Green Claims Directive could establish guardrails for legitimate net zero claims, which could be substantiated through the purchase of high-quality carbon removal credits certified under the CRCF.

Timeline

11 March 2020
20 July 2020
25 November 2020
30 March 2022
22 March 2023
11 May 2023
6 June 2023
19 September 2023
17 January 2024
14 February 2024
12 March 2024
17 June 2024 (TBC)
11 March 2020

The EU Circular Economy Action Plan sets out the plan to support the EU’s transition to a circular economy, including by protecting consumers

20 July 2020

Impact assessment and public consultation on substantiating green claims

25 November 2020
30 March 2022
22 March 2023

European Commission publishes the proposal for Green Claims Directive (GCD)

11 May 2023

European Parliament adopts its position on the ECGT Directive

6 June 2023

Deadline to provide feedback to the Commission on the GCD legislative proposal

19 September 2023

The Council and the Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the ECGT Directive

17 January 2024

The EU Parliament adopted the ECGT Directive

14 February 2024

Joint report of the lead ENVI and IMCO Committees on the GCD adopted

12 March 2024

European Parliament plenary adopted the GCD joint report

17 June 2024 (TBC)

Council to adopt its general approach on GCD

Unofficial Title

Green Claims

Year

2023

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023

In a Nutshell

The Directive on the geological storage of CO2 (CCS Directive) establishes a regulatory framework for the safe and responsible development and operation of geological carbon dioxide (CO2) storage in the EU. It applies to commercial scale facilities with a capacity of 100 kilotonnes per year (ktCO2/yr) or more.

One of the key elements of the Directive is a permit regime for CO2 storage. The rules set out minimum requirements for selecting CO2 storage sites to ensure there is no significant risk of reversal or damage to health or the environment. Operators are required to demonstrate financial security prior to injecting CO2 to cover potential liabilities and must closely monitor the sites during the operational phase to ensure long-term integrity and containment of stored CO2.

The Directive also introduces a liability mechanism in case of a reversal of CO2 out of storage, where the operator must take corrective measures. It also integrates CO2 storage into existing EU legislation. Environmental Liability Directive provides liability rules for environmental damage, and operators are included in the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). If emissions are captured, transported, and stored in compliance with the CCS Directive, they are considered as not emitted under the ETS. In the case of reversal, ETS allowances must be surrendered. Liability for damage to health and property is left for regulation at member state level.

The entire lifetime of storage sites is another key element. The Directive prescribes the decommissioning requirements for sites at and after closure and provides for the transfer of liabilities from the storage operator to the member state 20 years after closure of sites.

While the CCS Directive was introduced to provide an enabling framework for carbon capture and storage (CCS), it governs any instance of geological storage of CO2. This includes the storage portion of any carbon dioxide removal (CDR) activities which store pure gaseous/supercritical CO2, e.g. bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture with carbon storage (DACCS).

A diagram explaining the difference between carbon capture and storage (CO2 captured at the source and stored), carbon capture and utilisation (carbon captured and the source and reused), and carbon dioxide removal (captured from the air and stored)

What's on the Horizon?

2023: The Commission is reviewing the CCS Directive’s implementation guidance documents to address the latest technical and market developments and remove the ambiguities identified during the implementation of the first CCS deployments.

2023: The Commission is expected to share the results of two studies on CO2 infrastructure, one analysing an outline of the CO2 transport and storage infrastructure in 2030 and 2040 and the other analysing the regulatory environment, which will inform the upcoming Communication on industrial carbon management.

June 2023: National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP) expected. The Commission has requested that member states include a dedicated chapter on geological storage of CO2, addressing the need for CO2 capture in hard-to-abate industrial sectors, but also considering ongoing or planned biogenic carbon and direct air capture projects.

Q3-Q4 2023: Member states need to report to the European Commission on the implementation of the Directive by April 2023, which will be followed by the Commission’s fourth Implementation Report.

Q4 2023: A Communication on industrial carbon management is expected from the Commission in Q4, preceded by a public consultation (timing tbd). The strategy will address the prevailing lack of CO2 infrastructure development in Europe and, as such, may intersect with the CCS Directive.

Deep Dive

The CCS Directive was originally designed to assist the EU in meeting its CO2 reduction obligations through capture and geological storage of CO2. It is an essential tool to enable the activities for CO2 management and, as such, an important tool in the CDR regulatory toolkit.

The CCS Directive governs the geological formations in which carbon can be stored. Member states are required to cooperate with the Commission to establish maps of existing, potential, and closed geological storage sites. The Directive also requires operators and competent authorities to establish 3D dynamic models of storage complexes, including protected natural areas. These data offer a critical resource for developing Europe’s carbon management plans, including CDR.

Transborder CO2 movement

The Directive also includes provisions for the transport of CO2 across borders and for storage reservoirs which span multiple countries. This is an important base on which to develop a modular CDR ecosystem where facilities employing CO2 capture and storage sites might be located across Europe with CO2 transported across national borders.

The recent revision (2022) of the Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) Regulation, which identifies priority corridors and priority thematic areas to develop and interconnect, updated the infrastructure categories eligible for support allowing CO2 transport infrastructure to qualify as a Project of Common Interest (PCI). Fourteen such projects have already been submitted to the PCI selection.

Implementation

The implementation of the Directive varies across Europe. In addition to the restrictions allowing CO2 storage only in geological formations which are permanently unsuitable for other purposes (see the EU’s Water Policy), member states retain the right to not allow geological storage in parts or all of their territory (for example, Germany currently limits the amount of CO2 that can be geologically stored annually to 4 million tonnes and does not allow new demonstration projects to be approved, meaning there is no underground geological storage of CO2 taking place). CDR operators dependent on geological storage will have to navigate this fragmented regulatory landscape.

The information on the practical application of the Directive is limited, despite it being in force for more than 10 years. The uptake of CCS in Europe has been slower than predicted and the rules have not had the chance to demonstrate their effectiveness. The lack of CCS projects has largely been due to the low carbon price and absence of policy support measures to enable the deployment of CCS. Still, the Directive requires a rigorous reviewing process prior to permitting, which makes for intensive work on both storage applicants’ and the national authorities’ side. In any event, the European Commission’s upcoming strategic vision for CCS and CCU might yet provide the necessary fuel to jumpstart the industry and stress test the CCS Directive.

Timeline

23 April 2009
23 April 2009
30 May 2018
2023
2023
April 2023
June 2023
Q3 - Q4 2023
Q4 2023
23 April 2009

CCS Directive signed into law  

23 April 2009

Directive 2009/29/EC amends the EU ETS to include carbon capture and storage, linking ETS with the CCS Directive

30 May 2018

Decision 2018/853 empowers the Commission to amend the Annexes of the CCS Directive via delegated acts to adapt to technical and scientific progress

2023

Revision of the CCS Directive implementation guidance documents

2023

Results expected from two studies on the CO2 transport and storage infrastructure and the regulatory environment, to inform the upcoming Communication on CCS and CCU

April 2023

Member States will report to the Commission on the implementation of the CCS Directive

June 2023

Member States will update National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP), with a dedicated chapter on geological storage of CO2

Q3 - Q4 2023

Fourth CCS Directive Implementation Report from the Commission

Q4 2023

Expected publication of the Communication on CCS and CCU

Status

Year

2009

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023