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

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

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) aims to support farmers and ensure Europe’s food security. It sets out the EU legal framework and funds the support member states can provide to agriculture, forestry, and rural development. It has a double objective of ensuring Europe’s food security and incentivising environmentally friendly agriculture. 

The CAP has greatly evolved since its creation in 1962. In its latest iteration, the CAP 2023-2027 pursues 10 overreaching objectives aimed at ensuring agricultural productivity and farmers’ income while encouraging environmentally friendly practices.  

The total budget of the CAP 2023-2027 amounts to EUR 386.6 billion. The budget is divided into two funds, which are often referred to as the two pillars of the CAP:  

Each country implements the CAP 2023-2027 at their national level through a CAP Strategic Plan. These plans operationalise the numerous targeted interventions each country undertakes while contributing to the ambitions set by the European Green Deal 

Direct payments to support farmers are granted on the condition that they implement “good agricultural and environmental conditions” (GAEC). Around 90% of the total European utilised agricultural area (UAA) is covered by this conditionality. Furthermore, 25% of direct payments are optional and require farmers to implement eco-schemes (specific to each country) rewarding environmentally friendly farming. 

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and the CAP interact closely in several important ways. Practices that improve carbon sequestration in soils and ecosystems have many overlaps with soil health and agriculture and thus the CAP. The CAP provides an array of measures aiming to incentivise agroforestry practices, as well as the maintenance and restoration of land ecosystems. Finally, enhanced weathering and biochar are two novel CDR methods that also intersect with farming and may thus interact with the CAP in the future. 

There is, however, a dual dynamic within the CAP. On the one hand, some measures within the CAP still indirectly promote intensive farming practices depleting soil carbon stocks. On the other hand, more and more measures are targeted towards improving soil carbon stocks. The significant leeway provided to member states in their implementation of national measures means that the contribution of CAP to carbon removals varies across the EU.

What's on the Horizon?

The CAP 2023-2027 and the national CAP Strategic Plans entered into force on 1 January 2023. In 2024, countries will have to report to the EU Commission on their performances. In 2025, the national CAP Strategic Plans will be reviewed by the EU Commission.  

A new obligation to protect wetlands and peatlands will be included in the CAP by 2025 at the latest; wetlands and peatlands are part of the conventional CDR methods.  

The Commission will propose an improved methodology to ensure that the contribution of the CAP to climate action is correctly measured and accounted for by 2026 at the latest. 

Deep Dive

National Strategic Plans and support mechanisms  

Within the CAP 2023-2027, CAP National strategic plans operationalise the CAP’s policy objectives at the national level.  

The CAP amounts to 20% of the total EU budget and plays an enormous role in the EU’s intervention in the land sector. It provides different support mechanisms:  

  • income support through direct payments, among others, to incentivise environmentally friendly practices; 
  • market measures to deal with difficult market situations; 
  • rural development measures (national and regional programmes to address specific needs and challenges). 

Each member state has relative freedom to distribute funding across these three types of support mechanisms and can freely allocate up to 25% of its budget between income support and rural development. The CAP Strategic Plans outline this allocation and describe which measures will be supported within each member state. The CAP 2023-2027 puts higher emphasis on tracking outcomes by setting an annual performance report and a biannual review process for national plans, assessing progress towards their goals and the 10 CAP overarching objectives. 

Direct payments use the biggest share of the CAP funding and are conditional to Good Agricultural and Environmental Practices (GAEC), which include measures on maintaining a minimum soil cover, limiting erosion and maintaining soil organic matter, and requiring farmers to save at least 3% of their arable farmland for non-productive areas/features with the possibility to get support to extend it to 7% of the arable land. The new CAP introduces a requirement prohibiting drainage, burning or extraction of peat from peatlands. This prohibition could have a favourable impact on peatlands, allowing them to serve as carbon sinks rather than as sources of carbon emissions.  

While a large share of utilised agricultural area (UAA) is set to be farmed under GAECs, only a limited share is set to be under commitments to reduce emissions or to maintain or enhance carbon storage, which includes permanent grassland, permanent crops with a permanent green cover, agricultural land in wetland and peatland. Moreover, this share varies dramatically between countries, from 0% to 85%. The metrics used in the strategic plans are also not the same; some mention the peak coverage year (note: peak year also varies between countries) while others use the average over the 2023-2027 period. It is quite concerning to see that several states currently have no measures to increase soil carbon storage. Experts have also raised the question of whether the measures proposed are enough to reach the objectives set in the strategic plans. 

Eco-schemes 

Additional subsidies in the form of eco-schemes can be made available to states as a reward for more environmentally friendly practices. Eco-schemes support various types of voluntary actions that go beyond the CAP’s obligation of conditionality. These include practices related to agro-forestry and carbon farming among others. The Commission has published an extensive list of examples. However, it includes only a handful of practices linked to CDR. Member states are not exploiting this opportunity to the fullest, as only a minority of them plan to use eco-schemes in relation to CDR. Some environmental NGOs raised concerns questioning the eco-schemes’ true environmental benefits. 

Carbon farming and related debates 

The recent communication by the EU Commission on “Sustainable Carbon Cycles” has highlighted that the CAP should be one of the primary mechanisms to promote carbon farming at the European level, together with LIFE and Horizon Europe’s “Soil Deal for Europe”. The Commission encouraged states to include measures to incentivise carbon farming in their strategic plans. The current efforts on the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRC-F), among others, aim to clarify what good carbon farming practices mean. 

There are, however, several issues related to carbon farming that need to be discussed and tackled with high priority.  

Firstly, carbon farming is a very loaded term. The EU defines it vaguely as “a green business model to reward farmers for adopting practices leading to carbon sequestration”. Therefore, carbon farming as an economic concept and the underlying practices it encompasses should be separated in order to differentiate the business model from the underlying practices.  

Secondly, there is a strong opportunity in the CRCF to make clear that the durability of carbon sequestration in soil is lower than for other CDR methods. Any market-facing claims need to be strictly regulated to ensure that fossil emissions are not compensated for through such practices.  

Thirdly, soil carbon sequestration comes along with many co-benefits besides carbon removal. These include improved soil quality, positive biodiversity impacts and better water retention. These practices should thus be incentivised. However, key questions remain, such as who should pay, and be paid, to implement these practices and what the basis for payment should be. 

Finally, the measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) of soil carbon fluxes is still very much a work in progress. There is currently a trade-off between the accuracy of results and the costs/scalability of methodologies. The EU has yet to determine how best to deploy MRV and at which geographical scale and granularity. The purpose of MRV deployment should be better defined. Furthermore, the commodification of sequestered soil carbon requires more strenuous MRV. 

Timeline

1962
1984
1992
2003
2014-2020
2021
2021-2022
2 December 2021
January 2023
December 2023
2024
2025
2026
2027
1962

Launched in 1962. 

1984

First big reform of the CAP to bring production closer to what the market needs. 

1992

Shift from market support to producer support through direct payments to farmers. Farmers are incentivised to endorse more environmentally friendly practices. 

2003

The CAP introduces income support tied to environmental, food safety and animal health and welfare requirements

2014-2020

The CAP is once again reformed to increase the competitiveness of the sector, promote sustainable farming and support rural areas. 

2021

The EU Parliament, the Council and the Commission agree on the need to reform the CAP again and shift implementation responsibilities.

2021-2022

A transitional agreement is put in place while the reform is negotiated. 

2 December 2021

Adoption of the CAP 2023-2027.  

January 2023

The CAP 2023-2027 and the CAP strategic plans enter into force. 

December 2023

The EU Commission will submit a report to assess the joint CAP strategic plans in reaching Green Deal targets.

2024

Each country will present an annual performance report. 

2025

The Commission will conduct its first performance review of the CAP strategic plans. 

2026

The Commission will conduct an interim evaluation of the CAP 2023-2027.

2027

The Commission will conduct a second performance review of the CAP strategic plans.

Status

Unofficial Title

CAP

Year

1962

Official Document

Last Updated

24/07/2023

In a Nutshell

The National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) outline the EU member states’ 2021-2030 strategy to meet the 2030 energy and climate targets. The Regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action (EU) 2018/1999, adopted in 2018, requires member states to regularly submit NECPs and update them. It also sets the EU Commission review process of the plans.

Member states outline how they will address energy efficiency, renewables, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, interconnections, and research and innovation in their NECP. A common template is used to facilitate transborder collaboration and efficiency gains.

So far, the 2030 climate and energy targets aim for at least 55% of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, 32% of renewable energy within the total energy production mix and 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency. The Fit-for-55 package called for more ambitious targets, some of which are still under review, including a 42.5% share of renewable energy within the Renewable Energy Directive.

The current versions of the NECPs, submitted at the end of 2019, massively overlook the role of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) in their ability to achieve their targets. None of the 27 plans include targets for CDR, nor do they take into consideration novel carbon removal methods. Even conventional CDR methods such as afforestation or soil carbon sequestration are not properly addressed in the majority of NECPs.

This is concerning. To reach the scale of removals needed to reach net zero emissions by 2050, CDR capacities must be scaled up now. Member states should seize the opportunity to include CDR in their NECPs. In parallel, the inclusion of CDR in the 2040 targets would set the course until 2050.

What's on the Horizon?

  • As set by the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action, member states must have submitted an updated draft of their NECPs by 30 June 2023, and the final version by 30 June 2024 unless they can justify that the current plan remains valid.
  • On 1 January 2029 and every ten years thereafter, member states will need to submit a new final NECP covering each ten-year period, and a draft one year prior.
  • On 3 July, only eight countries submitted their draft updated NECPs: Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands. We will keep monitoring this space as member states submit their NECPs and a more detailed analysis will follow accordingly.

Timeline

24 December 2018
31 December 2018
June 2019
31 December 2019
17 September 2020
30 June 2023
18 December 2023
30 June 2024
1 January 2028
1 January 2029
31 December 2018

Deadline for member states to submit their draft NECPs for the period 2021-2030

June 2019

EU Commission communicated an overall assessment and country-specific recommendations

31 December 2019

Deadline for member states to submit their final NECPs

17 September 2020

EU Commission published a detailed EU-wide assessment of the final NECPs. Later on, it also published individual assessments.

30 June 2023

Deadline for member states to submit draft updated versions of their NECPs

18 December 2023

The EU Commission published its assessment of EU member states’ draft updated NECP

30 June 2024

Deadline for member states to submit final updated versions of the NECPs

1 January 2028

Deadline for member states to submit draft NECPs covering the period 2031-2040

1 January 2029

Deadline for member states to submit final NECPs covering the period 2031-2040

Status

Policy Type

Year

2018

Unofficial Title

NECPs

Last Updated

23/06/2023

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 fulfill 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 has prepared recommendations on methodologies and removals. These recommendations have been sent for approval and were reviewed at the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA5 – during COP28). If the recommendations are approved, Article 6.4 will become operational in principle. More recommendations from the SB will be needed to make Article 6.4 fully operational.
  • The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (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
18 November 2023
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) 

18 November 2023

The SB has approved the long-awaited recommendations on activities involving carbon dioxide removal and Article 6.4 mechanism methodologies.

30 November - 12 December 2023

CMA5/COP28 in Dubai.The Article 6.4 Supervisory Body’s recommendations on removals and methodologies have been sent for approval to CMA5. 

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
6 February 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

6 February 2024

Commission adoption of the Communication, which lays the foundation for a draft law setting the 2040 target

In a Nutshell

The proposal for a Soil Monitoring Law introduces a monitoring framework for all soils across the European Union. The proposed directive establishes a definition of what constitutes healthy soil. The law aims to present the information necessary to monitor European soils’ health and provide incentives for sustainable soil management.

In the proposal, soil health is defined as ‘the physical, chemical and biological condition of the soil determining its capacity to function as a vital living system and to provide ecosystem services’. Healthy soils have the potential to draw significant amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. However, EU soils are losing their ability to retain carbon and are actually emitting CO2, exacerbating climate change. Peatland drainage and soil erosion linked to agriculture and human settlements are just some of the reasons behind this carbon loss and associated emissions. In turn, the declining quality of EU soils might impact future food production.

The proposal’s most important feature is the introduction of a harmonised methodology and rules for soil health monitoring across the EU. Although some room is left for member states to decide how to implement the directive, it establishes common Union-wide criteria to assess whether a soil body is ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. The framework would create a common database integrating data from EU-level, member state and private sources. Member states will be required to regularly and accurately measure soil health using the framework. 

The law significantly lacks a legally binding objective to achieve soil health across EU territory by 2050. If monitoring shows that EU soils are unhealthy, there is no obligation for member states to restore soil health. Thus, this law does nothing to ensure that soil health is achieved.  

What's on the Horizon?

The EU Commission published its legislative proposal on 5 July 2023.

The proposal will be subject to interinstitutional negotiations in the European Parliament and Council. 

A public feedback period on the European Commission’s proposal was open until 27 November 2023. 

The timeline for the ENVI Committee to vote on its report is tentatively set for 11 March 2024. The AGRI Committee (committee for opinion) will adopt its opinion report on 13 February 2024 (TBC). The EU Parliament plenary vote is expected to take place on 10 April 2024.

The Council is expected to adopt its general approach on 17 June 2024.

Deep Dive

Context of the law

In 2021, the European Parliament requested that the Commission develop an EU-wide common legal framework for the protection and sustainable use of soil. The 2023 Framework proposal followed up on this request. Soil health also plays a key role in delivering existing EU strategies and targets, including the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the EU Soil Strategy for 2030 and the 8th Environment Action Programme 

Reaching the new climate objectives set under the European Green Deal, as well as ensuring a stable food supply, relies on healthy soils. In the proposal, the Commission reports that an estimated 61% to 73% of agricultural soils in the EU are affected by erosion, loss of organic carbon, nutrient exceedances, compaction or secondary salinisation, or a combination of these threats, which not only impacts soil carbon sequestration but also food production capacities. For example, crop yields can be reduced by 2.5-15% by soil compaction. It is estimated that around 75 billion tonnes of organic carbon are stored in EU soil. As a point of reference, the EU’s total CO2 emissions were about 4.5 billion tonnes in 2017.  

What does it look like in practice?

The proposal for a directive applies to all soils in the territory of member states. Under the Framework, member states are required to delineate their territories in ‘soil districts’, which is a newly defined governable unit introduced in the directive. Some loosely defined parameters to determine soil districts are laid out in the proposal. A competent authority designated by each member state will be assigned for each soil district. Member states are then required to establish a monitoring framework based on a set of criteria laid out in the directive, ensuring comparability of measurement across soil districts and member states. Most importantly, the European Union now has a measurable definition of soil health. Using this framework, member states are required to accurately and regularly measure soil health. The Directive lays out methodologies to do so and an obligation to measure soils at least every five years.   

Under this proposed directive, member states would also be required to set up a mechanism for voluntary soil health certification, viewed as a way to incentivise the uptake of sustainable soil management practices by land owners. As per the current proposal, this certification would be complementary to the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF). This linkage is still unclear and needs to be further clarified by the Commission.

Room for improvement

The Commission’s plan to create a strong soil health monitoring framework is a positive move for Europe. It will help foster healthier soils, potentially leading to greater quantities of carbon being absorbed. Carbon Gap especially welcomes the establishment of measurable common thresholds for soil health across a wide range of variables, minimum criteria for determining sampling points, an EU-wide soil health assessment and reporting system, and a digital portal to make soil data publicly accessible as important steps towards boosting Europe’s soils through a harmonised framework.  

However, it is important to recognise that monitoring soil health does not necessarily mean that soil health will be improved. The proposed directive would better serve its purpose if it included a legally-binding target for soil health by 2050 holding member states accountable for their stated goal. Another concern is that the proposed frequency of measurement and the timelines for reporting cycles is insufficient. Effectively, if the law enters into force as it stands today, the first soil measurements would only be required within four years. New soil measurements would then be required every five years, meaning that it would take close to a decade before a clear view is established of whether EU soils are recovering, protected or enhanced.  

While the Commission’s desire to incentivise sustainable soil management principles is welcome, its proposed mechanism of soil health certification for land owners and managers raises concerns. The suggested link to the CRCF warrants scrutiny as soil health and soil carbon are not interchangeable, soil carbon fluxes are difficult to measure accurately at scale, and the durability of soil carbon storage is low. Therefore, soil health certificates should not be sold as carbon credits or used to contribute toward net-zero targets. Rather, these certificates might be supported by entities wanting to make contribution claims or do good for the environment and society.

Timeline

17 November 2021
24 October 2022
5 July 2023
24 October 2023
3 November 2023
13 November 2023
27 November 2023
18 December 2023
13 February 2024
11 March 2024
10 April 2024 (TBC)
17 June 2024 (TBC)
17 November 2021

EU soil strategy for 2030

24 October 2022

Public consultation on new soil health legislation

5 July 2023

The EU Commission published its legislative proposal

24 October 2023

The ENVI Comittee published its draft report on the file

3 November 2023

Public feedback period deadline on the European Commission’s proposal 

13 November 2023

The AGRI Committee (committee for opinion) published its draft opinion

27 November 2023

Deadline to submit amendments to ENVI Committee draft report

18 December 2023

First policy debate on the file for the European Council

13 February 2024

AGRI Committee adopted its opinion report

11 March 2024

Vote in ENVI Committee on the Committee’s report

10 April 2024 (TBC)

Indicative EU Parliament plenary vote

17 June 2024 (TBC)

Council to adopt its general approach

Status

Year

2023

Official Document

Unofficial Title

Soil Monitoring Law

Last Updated

22/08/2023

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 three 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?

2023/2024: In the next steps, the European Parliament and the Council will engage in inter-institutional negotiations with the Commission to reach a final agreement. It is expected that negotiations will be finalised by the end of March 2024.

  • The draft report was voted on in the Parliament’s Environment Committee on 24 October 2023. It was adopted in the Parliament’s November plenary session.
  • In the Council, a general approach on the text among EU Member States was adopted on 17 November 2023.
  • Following the last trilogue, a provisional agreement on the file was found on 20 February 2024.
  • A tentative EU Parliament plenary vote has been scheduled on 10 April 2024. The Council will also need to adopt the agreement before the CRCF is published in the Official Journal of the EU.

Expert Group: The expert group on carbon removal 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. The next meeting will take place on 15-17 April 2024.

Methodologies: In parallel to the legislative process, work has started on detailed methodologies for different carbon removal activities that will be set out in separate 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 the 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 removal 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 removal, 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 2021
30 November 2022
7 March 2023
11 May 2023
21-22 June 2023
30 August 2023
24 October 2023
25-26 Oct 2023
17 November 2023
21 November 2023
2023
28 November 2023
23 January 2024
19 February 2024
15-17 April 2024
22 April 2024 (TBC)
2024
2025
2026
15 December 2021

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

24 October 2023

ENVI Committee vote on the adoption of the ENVI report

25-26 Oct 2023
Expert group meeting on industrial carbon removal methodologies
17 November 2023

Negotiating mandate adopted by Member States in the Council

21 November 2023

EU Parliament plenary adopted the ENVI Committee report

2023

Development of methodologies for certification of different carbon removal activities

28 November 2023

Kickstart of trilogues between EU institutions

23 January 2024

Second trilogue between EU institutions

19 February 2024

Third trilogue between EU institutions. A provisional agreement was reached

15-17 April 2024
4th expert group meeting (online only) which will cover a wide range of topics
22 April 2024 (TBC)

Tentative plenary vote on the provisional agreement

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

Status

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 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, with a view for the Parliament to adopt the report during the March 2024 plenary.
  • 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
11 March 2024 (TBC)
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

11 March 2024 (TBC)

European Parliament plenary vote on 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

Nature Restoration Targets is a legislative proposal from the European Commission that would set legally binding targets for nature restoration in Europe. The aim is to mitigate biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and climate change, and to boost human and animal health by complementing the EU’s existing framework for protecting ecosystems. If adopted, the regulation would be the first continent-wide, comprehensive law of its kind.

By 2030, the targets would ensure restoration of at least 20% of degraded EU land and sea areas, and the remaining ones by 2050. The proposed legislation covers a broad range of ecosystems with specific targets, from forests and agricultural land to urban areas, rivers and marine habitats, with emphasis on restoring those with the highest potential for carbon removal and storage, and for prevention and reduction of natural disasters. Member States would be required to develop Nature Restoration Plans, to be assessed by the Commission, and to report on their progress toward meeting domestic targets.

Many aspects of the law would promote carbon removal. The draft law prioritises the restoration of damaged terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that have significant potential for carbon removal. This includes ecosystems such as peatlands, forests, grasslands, marshlands, heathland and scrub and coastal wetlands. Focusing on damaged and carbon-rich ecosystems is thought to be cost-efficient (as well as critical for climate change mitigation) because the monetised benefits from carbon storage could outweigh the cost of restoring ecosystems by a factor of six. It is still unclear how the Commission expects to monetise carbon removals through nature restoration, but it has proposed that Member States fund their restoration efforts through the EU, national and private sources.

Under the proposed regulation, agricultural ecosystems across member states must achieve a trend of increasing organic carbon stocks in cropland and mineral soils. This trend must be evident at the national level, be measured at least every three years and is mandated to increase until satisfactory levels have been attained. Moreover, many ‘high-diversity landscape’ agricultural practices overlap with good soil management protocols for reducing soil loss, such as terracing and buffer strips. Reducing topsoil erosion is fundamental to soil carbon sequestration.

What's on the Horizon?

The draft Law faced political opposition from the EPP and the Conservatives and was almost withdrawn.

On 27 June, the ENVI Committee rejected the Commission’s proposal on the Nature Restoration Law. On 12 July, the Parliament rejected the EPP’s call to reject the law. It voted in favour of a common approach to the file, which had to be watered down to gather support.

Interinstitutional negotiations started in July 2023. The Spanish Presidency has signalled that the Nature Restoration Law will be one of its priorities. A provisional agreement was reached between the European Parliament and the Council. Both parties now need to formally adopt the agreement before the law is published in the Official Journal of the EU. On 29 November 2023, the Parliament’s ENVI Committee voted in favour of the provisional agreement, and on 27 February 2024, the EU Parliament Plenary adopted the agreement.

The Council should adopt the provisional agreement shortly. After that, the Nature Restoration Law will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and enter into force.

The next important process will be the drafting of Nature Restoration Plans by member states, which will be essential to implement this EU regulation.

Deep Dive

Giving teeth to EU environmental rules

The proposed Nature Restoration Law sits at the intersection between European climate and biodiversity policies, demonstrating the interconnected nature of these crises. If passed, the Law would contribute toward the EU’s delivery of its 2050 climate neutrality target, especially if the range of ecosystems in scope remains as broad and numerous as proposed. Many ecosystems constitute natural carbon sinks; restoring them can help draw down more carbon from the atmosphere and the Law’s legally binding targets will prioritise the restoration of those that have the highest potential to capture and store carbon. According to the Commission, restoring degraded ecosystems such as forests through management and afforestation has the capability to remove approximately 500 Mt CO2e annually by 2050.

In general, this law would add rigor to the EU’s existing environmental law regime. To date, the efficacy of these schemes has suffered from lack of targets, deadlines and procedural clarity. The EU has, so far, failed to meet its voluntary goals (for example, the Convention on Biological Diversity’s voluntary target to restore at least 15% of its degraded ecosystems by 2020 was missed).

Another advantage of the law would be new data sources that will be gathered as part of the national Restoration Plans and reports, such as mapping any agricultural and forest areas that need restoration that would highlight areas of carbon depletion, which may help fill data gaps on terrestrial carbon flows.

Additionality and the CRCF

It is still unclear how the Nature Restoration Law would intersect with the EU Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF). The Commission has proposed that carbon farming through restoration of peatlands and other ecosystems be eligible for certification under CRCF. However, the introduction of the Nature Restoration Law will have implications for the additionality rules in the CRCF, which state that carbon removal activities must exceed standard practices and legal requirements to be certified. By changing legalities and norms governing nature restoration, and by extension terrestrial and aquatic carbon-enhancing practices, the Nature Restoration Law might limit which carbon farming projects can be certified under the CRCF.

Status of the stakeholder debate

There is a strong case for increased ambition for the Nature Restoration Law. Parliament’s rapporteur, MEP César Luena, is advocating for raising the proposed target of restoring 20% of the EU’s land and seas by 2030 to 30% in line with the global decision adopted in December at the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal. Additionally, under the current proposal, the majority of the restoration action is postponed until after 2030; it takes time for the carbon benefits of nature restoration measures to materialise. Hence, policy-makers should bring the timeline forward to ensure these measures contribute to the EU’s net zero and biodiversity goals.

Questions remain as to how much flexibility member states will have in their implementation of the law. Some are particularly concerned about the impact of this regulation on farmers and foresters and, by extension, European food security and sovereignty (although the perceived trade-off between ecological restoration and EU food security has been challenged). For example, farmers and foresters may be obligated to transition to more sustainable practices, which may result in additional costs. Several voices in the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee argue that the proposed law should better integrate the interests of farmers by excluding agriculture from the scope, or ensuring nature restoration is economically attractive to farmers with new non-CAP financing.

There are similar concerns as to whether the new regulation adequately accounts for the socioeconomic role of forests. The proposed law aims to legally protect all remaining primary and old-growth forests. This stipulation is a particularly contentious issue for Nordic and Baltic countries with large forestry sectors. The European Landowners’ Organisation (ELO) decries the lack of new financing or market-based incentives for forest owners to preserve their land under the new law.

Overall, policy-makers should assess the existing EU funding available for nature restoration and what further financial support is needed while also establishing dialogue and coordination with landowners and farmers. For example, the ENVI Committee’s report could require the Commission to reflect on the creation of a dedicated nature restoration fund. Policy-makers should also not overlook the  potential for new green jobs to be created as a result of the regulation.

Timeline

20 May 2020
22 June 2022
20 June 2023
27 June 2023
12 July 2023
19 July 2023
5 October 2023
9 November 2023
29 November 2023
27 February 2024
20 May 2020

European Commission Biodiversity strategy for 2030 setting out the long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems

22 June 2022

European Commission adopts the proposal for a Nature Restoration Law

20 June 2023

The EU Council agreed on a general approach on the proposal for a Nature Restoration Law.

27 June 2023

The ENVI committee (the lead EU Parliament committee for this file) rejected the Commission’s proposal for the EU nature restoration law as amended by the ENVI Rapporteur of the file (44 pro, 44 against)

12 July 2023

The EU Parliament adopted a common approach to the Law and rejected the EPP’s call to reject the Law.

19 July 2023

First trilogue negotation

5 October 2023

Second trilogue negotiation

9 November 2023

Provisional agreement between the EU Parliament and the Council reached after the third trilogue negotiation

29 November 2023

The EU Parliament ENVI Committee voted in favor of the provisional agreement

27 February 2024

EU Parliament plenary adopted the provisional agreement

Status

Year

2022

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023