In a Nutshell

Horizon Europe is the European Union’s key funding programme for research and innovation. It follows and builds upon Horizon 2020. Totalling a budget of €95.5 billion for the period spanning from 2021 to 2027, it is a key instrument in tackling climate change, helping achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and incentivising the competitiveness and growth of the EU.  

Beyond EU members, the programme is a strong strategic tool for international cooperation in research and innovation. It opens the window for researchers across the world to team up with the EU through different forms of cooperation, including the association of three non-EU countries. 18 countries have association agreements, including New Zealand and the UK as the newest addition with reached political agreements (still pending formal adoption).

Substantive and welltargeted research and innovation support is key to fostering the maturation of nascent removal methods and to underpinning the progression towards the scale-up needed to reach climate neutrality goals in the EU. Carbon removal projects have received funding from Horizon Europe, especially within Pillar II (see Deep Dive section below). The support has been predominantly indirect and provided through calls with potential spillovers into removals, with a lower share of funding support for CDR directly. Broadening the understanding of removal methods and providing more targeted and sufficient support that strengthens the diverse family of removal methods will form a crucial part of Horizon’s approach to CDR in forthcoming work programmes.  

What's on the Horizon?

  • More countries are likely to finalise association agreements with Horizon Europe in the future. Negotiations with Morocco, Canada, the Republic of Korea, and Japan are at various stages of advancement. The UK and the EU have reached a political agreement on the UK’s association to the programme starting 1 January 2024. However, it is still pending for Council approval before it is formally adopted by the EU-UK Specialised Committee on Participation in Union Programmes. The same is true for New Zealand which is still pending Parliamentary consent 
  • Building on the public consultation launched back in November 2022, the Commission will publish the Horizon Europe interim evaluation and consultation to inform the Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2025-2027.  
  • In parallel, the expert group formed by the Commission’s latest call in May 2023 will meet between Q4 2023 – Q4 2024 and is expected to provide input on the programme’s evaluation. They will subsequently publish a report on how to amplify the impact of EU research and innovation programs and build on the conclusions of Horizon 2020. 
  • Further details on calls that are still open or yet-to-be-opened within the work programme 2023-2024 should be expected, as well as information on specific projects taken forward under each call. The work programmes for the following period should also be forthcoming.  

 

Deep Dive

A look at the various funding programmes of Horizon Europe

The program consists of four main pillars, each having dedicated funding and established working programmes that guide priorities for research and funding support:  

A table showing the main programs and total budgets for individual pillars of Horizon Europe
Adapted from Horizon Europe: Investing to shape our future (2021)

  • Pillar I – Excellent Science: aimed at strengthening the excellence and competitiveness of the EU’s scientific base. Three initiatives take the work forward:  
    • European Research Council: provides funding to researchers and their teams working on frontier science topics, with an emphasis on early-stage researchers.  
    • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions: focuses on enhancing the knowledge and skills of researchers through mobility and training.  
    • Research infrastructures: ensures world-class research infrastructure in Europe that is integrated, interconnected, and available to the top researchers in Europe and across the world.  
  • Pilar II – Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness: centred around 6 clusters that tackle key global challenges underpinning EU policies and the Sustainable Development Goals, with a total of €53.5 billion. The launch of “Missions”- specified in the main work programme – is also part of the strategic planning process. Each cluster publishes a number of projects and calls within the main work programme for the relevant year, following priorities in R&I for the EU. Horizon Europe sets out its own Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale, and projects are set to support the path towards different stages of maturity through a diverse range of actions including Research & Innovation Actions (RIA), Innovation Actions (IA) and Coordination and Support Actions (CSA).  
  • Pilar III – Innovative Europe:  
    • European Innovation Council (EIC): promotes breakthroughs, deep tech and disruptive innovation with scale-up potential at the global level through all stages of innovation.  It has two operating modes, an “Open” fund, holding no thematic preferences, and a “Challenge” fund, with specific thematic areas. Different technology readiness levels (TRL) are covered throughout its programmes:  A table of the total funding for programs in pillar three of Horizon Europe
    • European Innovation Ecosystems (EIE): supports the creation of better-connected innovation ecosystems across Europe, at both national and regional levels.  
    • European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT): brings together business, education and research organisations. 
  • Widening Participation & Strengthening the European Research Area (ERA): composed of two initiatives:

A look at carbon removal in Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe’s work programmes benefit a wide range of topics and technologies, especially in the six clusters of Pillar II. A close look at these programmes shows Horizon Europe has committed funding to CDRrelated topics (directly and indirectly, including calls with a high potential for spillovers), with the majority being clustered in three areas ( 8 Climate, Energy and Mobility; 9 Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment; and 12 Missions) in both the 2021-2022 and 2023-2024 work programmes.  

A table showing the various budgets available for CDR both directly and indirectly in Horizon Europe

The number of calls indirectly related to carbon removals found in both periods, – ranging from CCS and CO2 infrastructure projects to digital solutions and Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) – is higher than those with a direct link to CDR, such as blue carbon, carbon sequestration and BECCS projects.  For context, the funding allocated directly to CDR projects amounted to about 1.1% of the total budget for 2021-2022 and 0.9% of the 2023-2024 total budget. Direct and indirect funding for CDR reached 2.6% of the total 2023-2024 budget, instead of the 1.78% for 2021-2022.  

Research & Innovation actions (RIA) are dominant for the first period, while both RIA and Innovation Actions (IA) lead within the latest work programme, although RIA are slightly more present (65.73% of all projects) in direct CDR funding. RIA projects have 100% of costs covered by the EU and are directed to new knowledge and exploration of technologies. IA projects are covered until 70% of costs and focus more on prototyping, testing, piloting, and large-scale product validation, and marker replication.  

Knowledge and targeted funding

A number of projects in Horizon Europe can provide simultaneous benefits to Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU), and Carbon Removal (CDR). While there are sometimes overlaps between these families of methods – for example, shared CO2 transport and storage infrastructure – CDR is a much broader field and a set of methods on its own. The main work programme for 2023-2024, especially in Cluster 6, features more explicit mentions of carbon removals in the expected outcomes or scopes of the topics. However, the calls do not solely focus on CDR in most cases and are more likely to produce spillover effects that benefit CDR, such as providing CO2 transport infrastructure.  

It is a positive step that the Commission has progressively included mentions of CDR within Horizon’s work programmes. To ensure that Horizon Europe delivers the appropriate support for CDR solutions going forward, a more sophisticated approach must be introduced that differentiates between CCUS and CDR methods, providing dedicated funding for different types of CDR as part of a portfolio approach. 

Means in line with targets

There is substantial support for different types of removals given CDR’s status as a nascent field. Despite this support, the amount currently allocated to research into carbon removals is not nearly enough to meet the needs for accelerated development and deployment of CDR in light of the EU climate goals and the ambition for the EU to take the lead in this space globally. To deliver on these goals, the EU must commit to a significantly expanded budget for carbon removal, in line with the goals set out for the Green Deal, such as 310 MtCO2e of removals from the LULUCF sector, 55% emissions reductions by 2030, and climate neutrality by 2050.  

Diverse and precise support

Horizon Europe strategic plans guide the direction of the investments in research and innovation. Ahead of the next iteration, the Strategic Plan 2025-2027 analysis looks at changes in EU policy and how the global context has changed since the first Plan (2021-2024), to determine if adjustments in terms of priority, directions and actions need to be made for this period. The analysis states that significant research is needed to bring down the cost of nature-based and industrial removals, and further identifies areas where the current efforts need to be reinforced, for example:  

  1. Sustainable economic models that incorporate ways to measure and incentivise the co-benefits of carbon removal; 
  2. Addressing challenges in soil, water, nutrient and biodiversity through e.g, carbon removal; 
  3. The removal potential of bio-based economies and bio-based value chains; 

Beyond these suggestions, directing calls for projects based on a diverse portfolio of CDR methods will be necessary to help the industry bridge the research and innovation gap and ensure the maturity of all removal technologies. This approach requires that Horizon Europe ensure there are sufficient calls for all levels of maturity (TRL levels) and types of actions (Research & Innovation, Innovation and Coordination & Support Actions), since carbon removal requires both early-stage research capacity and support for deployment. 

Timeline

7 June 2018
April 2019
11 December 2020
28 April 2021
29 July 2022
23 February 2023
15 May - 7 June 2023
Q2 2023
9 July 2023
7 September 2023
December 2023
Q4 2023
Q4 2023 - Q4 2024
Q4 2024
28 April 2021

Regulation (EU) 2021/695 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon Europe

29 July 2022

Deadline for the Feedback Period – Horizon Europe – Interim Evaluation

23 February 2023

Deadline for the Public Consultation period

Q2 2023

Publication of factual summary reports from the public consultation

December 2023

Horizon 2020 ex-post evaluation report (staff working document)

Q4 2023 - Q4 2024

High Level Expert Group work

Q4 2024

High Level Expert Group Report publication

Further reading

A new horizon for Europe – Impact Assessment for Horizon Europe 2021-2027  

Horizon Europe budget breakdown  

Evidence Framework on monitoring and evaluation of Horizon Europe – focusing on the measurement of impact for Horizon, including the introduction of Key Impact Pathways.  

Funding and Tenders Portal 

Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2021-2024 

Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2025-2027 Analysis   

Horizon Work Programmes  

Countries

Since 1 August 2022, the following countries have association agreements in place: Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Faroe Islands, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine.  

Status

Policy Type

Unofficial Title

Horizon Europe

Year

2021

Official Document

Last Updated

31/07/2023

In a Nutshell

Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement establishes the Article 6.4 mechanism, a market-based instrument that countries can voluntarily use to trade credits from emission reduction and removal projects. Under the mechanism, reducing emission levels in one country can be used by another country to fulfil its climate target, Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).  

Often seen as a tool to help countries achieve their climate targets cost-effectively, its real goal is to bring about higher ambition – enabling countries to do more than they could without using it. It’s built to incentivise and facilitate the participation of authorised public and private entities by crediting their emission reduction and removal activities. The projects need to deliver an overall mitigation in global emissions. 

It’s a centralised UN crediting mechanism governed by Article 6.4 Supervisory Body. Being a successor of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the Kyoto Protocol, it will operate under the Paris Agreement, where all countries have climate targets. This means that the host countries need to know that they can still meet their climate targets when selling credits via the Article 6.4 mechanism, and double counting of the same emission reductions or removals must be avoided through the double-entry bookkeeping for emissions accounting (“corresponding adjustments”). 

Among its other work in setting up the instrument, the Supervisory Body is preparing the foundation for how the Article 6.4 mechanism will apply to removals. There is a growing ecosystem of novel removal methods, and many of these are poised to be used by countries in their climate targets. Given the lack of broadly accepted international accounting rules for a range of removal methods, the decisions taken under Article 6.4, and the methodologies approved under it, are bound to have an outsized impact on carbon markets globally.  

What's on the Horizon?

  • The Article 6.4 Supervisory Body is preparing recommendations on methodologies and removals, the rules for transitioning the Clean Development Mechanism into the Article 6.4 mechanism, the accreditation standard, and the project activity cycle for adoption by CMA5 (during COP28). 
  • SBSTA is preparing recommendations on including emission avoidance and conservation enhancement activities in the scope of Article 6.4 mechanism, authorisation of credits, and connection between registries for adoption at CMA5 (during COP28). 

 Getting the Article 6.4 mechanism up and running will take a few years. 

Deep Dive

How will it work? 

The Article 6.4 Supervisory Body is responsible for establishing guidance and procedures, approving methodologies, registering projects, issuing credits, and more.

Methodologies may be developed by project participants, host countries, stakeholders, or the Supervisory Body.

The credits are called the Article 6.4 Emission Reductions (A6.4ERs). These are used for both emission reductions and carbon removal. The host country will have to authorise A6.4ERs and account for these by applying corresponding adjustments unless the A6.4 ERs contribute to the national target in the host country (mitigation contribution A6.4ERs). 

Removal activities get a maximum of 15-year crediting periods, renewable twice. The mechanism credits emission reductions and removals by public and private sector actors.

2% of Article 6.4 credits are subject to cancellation (“Overall Mitigation in Global Emissions” clause), 5% of credits are dedicated to the Adaptation Fund (“Share of Proceeds for Adaptation”) and other fees for registration, inclusion, issuance, renewal, and post-registration apply as well (“Share of Proceeds for Administrative Expenses”).  

Many other details are yet to be ironed out, listed in the “Open elements” section below. 

How will removals be covered? 

Whilst the mechanism covers emission reductions and removals, it will likely focus on emission reductions in the coming decade, with interest in removals growing as climate targets get closer to net zero and beyond. 

The Supervisory Body has been tasked with preparing a general framework for including the full spectrum of carbon removal methods under Article 6.4, called “recommendations”, to be approved at CMA5 during COP28.  

For the first time, novel carbon removal methods will be tackled under the Paris Agreement, and the recommendations will set a precedent by establishing broad removals-specific rules under the UN crediting mechanism. 

Open elements 

Two separate ongoing work streams are ironing out the details of the mechanism – (1) the Supervisory Body and (2) the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) where international climate negotiations under the Paris Agreement are ongoing on the technical elements. 

The Supervisory body has a busy work program for 2023 and has been tasked to prepare several deliverables for adoption for CMA5 (during COP28). This includes recommendations on methodologies (baseline, monitoring methodologies, methodology development process, review), recommendations on activities involving removals (monitoring, reporting, accounting for removals and crediting periods, addressing reversals, avoidance of leakage), transitioning the Clean Development Mechanism into the Article 6.4 mechanism, developing accreditation standard, and designing project activity cycle.

SBSTA is negotiating recommendations on including emission avoidance1 and conservation enhancement activities in the scope of Article 6.4 mechanism, authorisation of credits by host countries, and work on the registry. These discussions are very technical, have continued throughout the Bonn Climate Conference in June 2023, and will be submitted for adoption at CMA5 during COP28.

1 Emission avoidance in this context mainly refers narrowly to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+ projects), not to be confused with how the term “emission avoidance” is used in the voluntary carbon markets where some stakeholders use it as a blanket term for emission reductions and avoidance. 

How can stakeholders engage with the Article 6.4 process?   

Documents for stakeholder input will be published at least a week before each Supervisory Body meeting. Any organisation can provide written input before meetings, but only UNFCCC-accredited observer organisations can attend the Supervisory Body meetings. Everyone can follow the live stream and watch recordings of past sessions.

 

Meeting number  Meeting dates  Deadline for registering as an observer  Deadline for submitting public comments on the meeting agenda 
SB 006  10-13 July 2023  19 June  3 July 
SB 007  11-14 September 2023  21 August  4 September 
SB 008  10 October to 2 November 2023  9 October  23 October 

In June 2023, the UNFCCC launched a dedicated Article 6.4 newsletter covering the latest news, calls for inputs and other announcements from the Supervisory Body. 

The negotiations under SBSTA take place in 2-week sessions twice a year during the Bonn Climate Conference and COP. 

 

Timeline

12 December 2015
4 November 2016
November 2021
November 2022
19 November 2022 - 15 March 2023
7-10 March 2023
16 March - 11 April 2023
18-25 May 2023
31 May - 3 June 2023
5-15 June 2023
5-19 June 2023
23 June 2023
10-13 July 2023
11-14 September 2023
Until 19 September 2023
30 October - 2 November 2023
Before SBSTA29/COP28
30 November - 12 December 2023
12 December 2015

The Paris Agreement is adopted

4 November 2016

The Paris Agreement enters into force 

November 2021

CMA3/COP26 Glasgow – Adoption of the rules, modalities and procedures for Article 6.4 mechanism 

November 2022

Adoption of guidance on Article 6.4, elaborating on key processes and principles, providing SBSTA to work on remaining elements, and mandating the Supervisory Body to operationalise the mechanism 

19 November 2022 - 15 March 2023

Request for submissions by Parties and admitted observer organisations to submit their views on activities involving removals via the submission portal

23 June 2023

Article 6.4 Supervisory Body stakeholder webinar

Until 19 September 2023

Public consultation on the three SBSTA working areas on Article 6.4 (inclusion of emission avoidance and conservation enhancement, registries, authorisation of credits) 

Before SBSTA29/COP28

Technical expert dialogue on the three SBSTA working areas on Article 6.4 (inclusion of emission avoidance and conservation enhancement, registries, authorisation of credits) 

30 November - 12 December 2023

CMA5/COP28 in Dubai.The Article 6.4 Supervisory Body will prepare recommendations on removals and methodologies for approval to CMA5. 

Institutions

Unofficial Title

Article 6.4

Year

2015

Last Updated

23/06/2023

In a Nutshell

As part of the European Green Deal, the EU has set out legally binding climate objectives to (1) cut domestic net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and to (2) reach climate neutrality by 2050. The European Climate Law provides the legal framework to support these objectives. The law also requires the European Commission to propose a 2040 climate target for the EU in the first half of 2024, accompanied by an indicative EU GHG budget for the period 2030-2050.

The Commission is at the early stages of this process and has opened a public consultation to guide its assessment of a suitable 2040 climate target, inform the analysis of the sectoral transformations needed to meet this target, and provide input on the possible evolution of climate policy instruments beyond 2030. It will also lay out preferences between establishing separate or joint targets for emissions reductions and carbon removal – the two central components of net zero.

Carbon Gap advocates for the EU to set an explicit 2040 net emission reduction target of 95% compared to 1990, in line with advice by the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change. This target will be the key milestone that the Union commits to reaching on the path to climate neutrality by or before 2050.

Timeline

23 June 2023
Q1 2024
23 June 2023

Deadline to submit feedback to the call for evidence for an impact assessment, which will inform the new Communication on the EU climate target for 2040

Q1 2024

Planned Commission adoption of the Communication, which will lay the foundation for a draft law setting the 2040 target

In a Nutshell

The European Commission has proposed a voluntary regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals (CRCF), which will be the first of its kind in width of covered CDR methods, pending adoption by co-legislators. The stated goal is to foster and accelerate the scale-up of sustainable carbon removals, which includes a wide variety of CDR methods to be applied by land managers, industries, and others to capture and store atmospheric or biogenic CO2, as well as fight greenwashing, and harmonise carbon removal market conditions.

The proposal includes and distinguishes 3 types of carbon removal categories: carbon farming (such as reforestation and soil carbon management), permanent carbon storage (such as BECCS and DACCS), and carbon storage in products (such as wood-based construction materials). In order to ensure the quality of carbon removals certified under the framework, removals need to meet several quality criteria (so-called “QU.A.L.ITY” criteria), covering the aspects of quantification, additionality, long-term storage, and sustainability.

Under the framework, the European Commission, assisted by an expert group, will develop methodologies for the certification of a range of carbon removal methods and recognise certification schemes. The certification schemes will have the obligation of listing certified removals in interoperable public registries, while certification bodies, supervised by Member States, will carry out certification audits and the issuing of certificates.

In its current state, the proposal does not align with scientifically widely accepted definitions of carbon removal as the definition also covers emissions reductions. It also does not outline any rules for how the carbon removal certificates generated under the framework could or should be used. The certificates could be used in corporate reporting, in contracts in supply chains, in voluntary markets, or to receive public support for carbon removal activities.

What's on the Horizon?

2023: In the next steps, the European Parliament rapporteur on the file (MEP Lidia Pereira, EPP, PT) will prepare her initial report, and discussions in the Parliament and Council will continue.

  • The draft report is expected to be voted on in the Parliament’s Environment committee in September 2023 and then in its October plenary session.
  • In the Council, a general approach on the text among EU Member States is expected in Autumn 2023.

2023: The expert group on carbon removals kicked off their work in March 2023. Among other tasks, the group will be providing technical advice to the Commission on the development of the methodologies under the CRCF.

2023: In parallel to the legislative process, work will be ongoing on detailed methodologies for different carbon removal activities that will be set out in Commission delegated acts.

Within one year of the implementation of CRCF, the Commission will have to assess the potential inclusion of carbon storage in products in scope of the LULUCF Regulation.

By 2026, the Commission will have to assess the potential inclusion of carbon removals with permanent storage in the EU ETS.

Deep Dive

Aim of the file

The CRCF will be the EU’s first certification framework that focuses exclusively on carbon removals. The stated goal of the file is a certification framework which creates trust in the quality and reliability of certified carbon removals among carbon removal providers, certificate buyers, and the public. The proposed framework also aims to increase transparency in the field of carbon removal certification, by creating public registries and methodologies for a wide variety of carbon removal methods, while also outlining requirements for monitoring, reporting and verification. As a result, interest and willingness to fund carbon removal activities and purchase certificates are expected to increase, leading to an expansion of carbon removal activities by current and potential operators. If adopted by co-legislators, the framework will form the basis of recognising and rewarding land managers, industry, and other carbon removal activity operators for high-quality carbon removals and their contribution to reaching the EU’s climate change mitigation goals.

Meaning for climate goals

By establishing this framework, the European Union works towards reaching its goal of climate neutrality in 2050 and net-negative emissions thereafter, both of which will rely heavily on significantly upscaling carbon removal. As the first legislative file focusing primarily on carbon removals, it also contains a definition of which, in the current proposal, also includes emissions reductions. Furthermore, the proposal does not provide any rules around the potential uses of certificates. Potential uses envisioned by the Commission range from the use of certificates to access funding from policies, such as the CAP, to the use on voluntary carbon markets.

Room for improvement

  • Eliminate ambiguity as to what is and is not a removal
    The current definition of carbon removals in the proposal also includes emissions reductions from biogenic carbon pools, and is not aligned with broad scientific consensus (see e.g., IPCC definition). In order to avoid conflation of emissions reductions and removals, and to allow the CRCF to become a global model for carbon removal certification, emissions reductions need to be excluded from the definition.
  • Ensure a strict separation between higher-durability and lower-durability removals
    The currently proposed storage categories do not clearly differentiate CDR methods based on their carbon storage durability nor separate biological from geochemical storage media. Separation of these storage media is essential as the need and difficulty of MRV vary significantly between CDR methods based on their storage media.
  • Equip the framework to track how carbon removal is used so inappropriate claims can be policed
    The CRCF requires provisions determining permitted uses of carbon removal certificates and certified units, to prevent mitigation deterrence, greenwashing and the erosion of public trust, especially regarding compensation claims for fossil fuel emissions based on lower-durability removal certificates. The current proposal lacks guardrails as to which claims can be made based on the characteristics of generated certificates and the CDR methods used to generate them.

Timeline

15 December 2022
30 November 2022
7 March 2023
11 May 2023
21-22 June 2023
30 August 2023
2 October 2023 (TBC)
25-26 Oct 2023
Oct/Nov 2023
18 December 2023 (TBC)
Q4 2023/ Q1 2024
2023
Q4 2023/Q1 2024
2024
2025
2026
15 December 2022

Communication on Sustainable Carbon Cycles by the European Commission announcing the development of the framework

30 November 2022

Proposal for the certification framework adopted by the European Commission 

7 March 2023

First meeting of European Commission expert group on carbon removals

11 May 2023
Draft report from the rapporteur in the European Parliament

 

21-22 June 2023
30 August 2023

The AGRI Committee (committee for opinion) adopted its opinion on the file

2 October 2023 (TBC)

ENVI Committee vote on the adoption of the ENVI report

25-26 Oct 2023
Expert group meeting on industrial removals (call for inputs open until 15 September)
Oct/Nov 2023
Expert group meeting on certification process
18 December 2023 (TBC)

General approach expected to be reached by Member States in the Council

Q4 2023/ Q1 2024
Expert group meeting on the 2024 work programme
2023

Development of methodologies for certification of different carbon removal activities

Q4 2023/Q1 2024

Trilogues between EU institutions and provisional agreement expected

2024

Expected entry into force of the CRCF

2025

Commission report expected on the potential inclusion of carbon storage in products in scope of the LULUCF Regulation

2026

Commission will have to assess the potential inclusion of carbon removals with permanent storage in the EU ETS

Further reading

Unofficial Title

CRCF

Year

2022

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023

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.

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 to evaluate where more specific requirements are needed and to implement delegated acts accordingly.

Climate-related claims such as net zero or carbon neutrality claims based on offsetting or 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 will now enter ordinary legislative procedure with the goal of reaching a formal adoption by the European Parliament and the Council.

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

May 2023 – Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition:
  • The Council adopted its negotiating mandate regarding the Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition 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 11 May adopted its position which sets stricter conditions than the Commission proposal and adds a definition of carbon offsetting.
  • Negotiations between the Parliament and member states to find a middle ground are expected to start shortly. Complementing the Directive on Empowering Consumers, the Green Claims Directive will provide further guidance on the conditions to make substantiated environmental claims.

2024: Following trilogues between EU institutions, the Directive is expected to pass into EU law.

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 respectively set requirements to substantiate environmental claims made to consumers and 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 emission 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 2023
22 March 2023
11 May 2023
6 June 2023
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
22 March 2023

European Commission proposal for Green Claims Directive

11 May 2023

European Parliament adopts its position on the Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition

6 June 2023

Deadline to provide feedback to the Commission on the Green Claims legislative proposal

Unofficial Title

Green Claims

Year

2023

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023