In a Nutshell

The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) aims to increase the share of renewable energy sources (RES) within the European Union’s final energy consumption. It establishes a common framework for the development of renewable energy capacity in the European Union and sets a binding target for the share that renewable energy represents within the EU’s final energy consumption.

In its 2021 revision, the Commission proposed increasing the target minimum share of RES in the EU’s final energy consumption to 40% in 2030 (RED III), an increase of 8 percentage points compared to its 2018 recast (RED II), which had established a minimum RES share of 32% of final energy consumption in 2030. Since the 2021 proposal, the binding renewable target has been raised to a 42.5% RES share in 2030 as part of the RePower EU Package (RED IV). RePower EU follows the Russian invasion of Ukraine and an increasing need to reduce dependency on Russian gas.

The Directive is particularly relevant for bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), as it regulates the use of biomass and biofuels for energy generation, affecting the feasibility of introducing BECCS in the EU, and its potential scale. RED is also highly relevant to carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods that rely on a stable supply of renewable and lowemissions energy, such as direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS).

The RED also impacts biomass-based CDR methods beyond BECCS. Due to the high expected demand and relatively limited supply of eligible types of biomass, competition may arise between actors proposing different potential uses for biomass. Biomass use also affects carbon storage in biogenic carbon sinks. For example, forests can be a biogenic carbon sink, provide timber, and provide residual harvest biomass for bioenergy production.

What's on the Horizon?

  • A tentative political agreement on RED III was reached between the EU Parliament and the EU Council on 30 March 2023. This agreement was due to be formally approved on 17 May, but a last-minute disagreement over the role of low-carbon hydrogen produced using nuclear energy in the EU’s decarbonisation targets led to the process being postponed.
  • On 19 June, the EU Council reached an agreement on RED III. The European Parliament Committee responsible for the file approved the text on 28 June. A plenary vote in the European Parliament took place on 12 September, during which the EP voted in favour of the revision. The Council adopted the final text on 9 October 2023. The text was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 31 October 2023 and entered into force on 20 November 2023.
  • The energy policy framework for the post-2030 period is under discussion.

Deep Dive

Making sense of the Renewable Energy Directive

To help deliver on the EU’s increasing climate ambitions, including the EU-wide 55% emissions reduction target by 2030 and the target to achieve net neutrality by 2050, the targets set by the RED have been repeatedly increased. As a result, the RED has evolved from RED I to its latest version, RED IV. Starting from a target of 20% RES as a share of total final energy consumption by 2020 set in 2009, RED I was revised as part of the “Clean energy for all Europeans” package in 2018 to include a target of a 32% RES share by 2030, thereby becoming RED II.

In July 2021, as part of the “Fit-for-55” package, RED III was proposed and the target was raised to 40% by 2030. Following the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Commission proposed a first amendment (RED IV) with a target of 45% as part of its “REPowerEU” plan. In November 2022, the Commission proposed a second amendment for a Council regulation to accelerate RES deployment.

In March 2023, the EU Parliament and the Council reached a tentative agreement to raise the target to a 42.5% RES share by 2030. Member states will need to increase their national contributions in their integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP), which are due to be updated in 2023 and 2024, to collectively achieve the target. Achieving the target would bring EU member states’ total renewable energy generation capacity to 1236 GW by 2030.

RES considered within the RED’s scope include wind, solar, hydro, tidal, geothermal, and biomass. The binding target is supported by differentiated targets for a variety of sectors, such as heating and cooling, industry, and transport. The provisional agreement under RePowerEU also aims to remove barriers to the scale-up of renewable energy generation by making permitting processes for renewable energy installations quicker and easier. To this end, member states will define regions (so-called ‘go-to areas’) with limited environmental risks and high renewable energy generation capability, in which the permitting procedure shall be simplified. 

The RED and its impacts on biomass use

Biomass is considered a RES within the provisional agreement, provided that its use meets several sustainability criteria. These include requirements that woody biomass used in energy generation follows the cascading principle – ensuring that biomass of higher quality should serve purposes demanding higher-quality biomass first – and that forest biomass may not be harvested from areas with particular significance with regard to carbon stocks or biodiversity. Furthermore, no financial support shall be granted when energy facilities use stumps and roots for energy generation (as they are considered important, for example, to protect soil carbon stocks) or when they use high-quality biomass that should be reserved for other use cases under the cascading principle, such as industrial-grade roundwood, veneer logs, and saw logs.

The provisional agreement sets out a new binding combined target of 5.5% for advanced biofuels, generally derived from non-food-based feedstocks, and renewable fuels of non-biological origin, mostly renewable hydrogen and hydrogen-based synthetic fuels, in the share of renewable energy supplied to the transport sector. The increasing need for advanced biofuels that use biomass as a feedstock may conflict with the demand for the lower-quality biomass upon which several CDR methods rely, such as BECCS and biochar.

Where does BECCS fit in?

The recognition of biomass as a renewable energy source affects the feasibility and potential scale of BECCS. BECCS can both provide renewable energy and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The 2021 proposal states that member states should not support electricity production from installations producing only electricity, as opposed to, for example, installations producing both heat and power), unless these installations are located in regions included in the Just Transition Plan, or if the installations used CCS technologies to capture and store the associated (biogenic) CO2 emissions.

Currently, negative emissions stemming from BECCS cannot contribute towards targets set under any of the three main legislative pillars of EU climate action, namely the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), and the LULUCF Regulation.

The RED: Are sustainability criteria enough to ensure the sustainable use of biomass?

The role of biomass within the RED is important. While sustainability criteria exist to prevent the misuse of biomass for energy generation, the demand for biomass may increasingly exceed supply. Some communities might be adversely impacted, especially in terms of resource use and food security. It is therefore critical that future revisions of the RED take these concerns into consideration.

Timeline

1997
2001
2003
2009
2018
2021
2022
30 March 2023
17 May 2023
19 June 2023
12 September 2023
9 October 2023
31 October 2023
20 November 2023
1997

Energy for the future: renewable sources of energy, indicative EU target of 12% renewables by 2010.

2001
2003
2009

RED I: EU target of 20% renewables by 2020 and national binding targets

2018

RED II: 32% renewables target for 2030 – This is the piece of legislation that is currently in force

2021

RED III: EU Green Deal: EC proposal to raise target for 2030 to 40%

2022

RED IV: REPowerEU Plan: EC proposal to raise target for 2030 to 45% (voted as part of RED III)

  • Parliamentary position agreed & endorsed 14/09/2022 
  • Council general approach agreed on 29/06/2022. 
30 March 2023

Council and Parliament reach provisional agreement on the revision

17 May 2023

A last-minute objection postponed the adoption of the revision of the Directive

19 June 2023

The Council reached an agreement on its position

12 September 2023

The EU Parliament voted in favour of the revision

9 October 2023

The Council adopted the final text

31 October 2023

The Directive was published in the Official Journal of the EU

20 November 2023

Entry into force of RED III

Status

Year

1997

Unofficial Title

RED

Official Document

Last Updated

19/06/2023

In a Nutshell

The EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) is a market-based approach for setting a price for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It works on a ‘cap and trade’ basis whereby a ‘cap’ or limit is set on the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions allowed from specific sectors of the economy each year, with the aim of achieving emissions reductions over time. This cap is converted into tradable emission allowances, which are then allocated to market participants through free allocation or auctions. One allowance gives the holder the right to emit one tonne of CO2 (or its equivalent) during a specified period. Companies covered by the EU ETS must monitor and report their emissions each year and purchase or trade allowances as needed to cover their annual emissions.

Participants who are likely to emit more than their allocation have a choice between taking measures to reduce their emissions or buying additional allowances; either from the secondary market, for example companies who hold allowances they do not need, or from member state-held auctions. When participants reduce their emissions, they can either sell their allowances or keep them for the future.

The ETS is the EU’s main tool for addressing emissions reductions, covering the following sector, representing about 40% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions: power, heat generation, energy intensive industrial sectors, aviation, and, since the latest revision, the maritime sector. It is now in its fourth trading phase (2021-2030). In December 2022, the European Parliament and Council reached a political agreement on the reform of the ETS. The overall target of the revised ETS was increased to a 62% reduction in carbon emissions from the sectors covered by the scheme by 2030, up from 42.8% since its introduction in 2005.

Carbon removal is not included under the EU ETS, but the Commission is set to report, by 2026, on how negative emissions could be accounted for and covered by emissions trading.

The Innovation Fund, a key source of EU support for nascent carbon removal projects amongst other clean technologies, is funded by the auctioning of ETS allowances. At 75 euro/tCO2, the ETS is set to provide around EUR 38 billion from 2020 to 2030 to the Fund.

What's on the Horizon?

The provisional political agreement reached between the European Parliament and Council in late 2022 needs to be formally adopted before the Regulation can enter into force:

  • 18/04/2023: Formal adoption by the European Parliament
  • 25/04/2023: Formal adoption by the Council of the European Union
  • 16/05/2023: Publication in the Official Journal of the European Union
  • 05/06/2023: Entry into force

By 31 July 2026, the European Commission is required to submit a report to the Parliament and the Council on the possibility of integrating negative emissions technologies (NETs) into the EU ETS. This should explore how emissions removed from the atmosphere through methods such as direct air capture can be safely and permanently stored, and how these negative emissions can be accounted for and covered by emissions trading without compromising necessary progress in reducing emissions.

By 31 July 2026, the Commission will have to assess and report on the possibility of including the municipal waste incineration sector in the ETS with a view to including it from 2028.

Deep Dive

Update to the ETS

The ETS was revised as part of the Commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ package, which aims to introduce new or improve existing legislative tools for achieving the EU’s target of reducing net GHG emissions by at least 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. The proposed changes to the ETS include:

  • Increased ambition to reduce emissions by 62% in the sectors covered by the ETS by 2030  and reduction of the cap by 4.3% per year in 2024-2027, and by 4.4% in 2028-2030.
  • End of free allowances for sectors covered by the Carbon Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) in 2026-2034.
  • Phase-out of free emissions allowances for aviation (25% in 2024, 50% in 2025 and 100% from 2026).
  • Inclusion of maritime shipping in the ETS.
  • Creation of a separate ETS for the building and road transport sectors, applying to the distributors that supply fuels for combustion. A new Social Climate Fund will direct part of the revenue from the auctioning to support vulnerable households and micro-enterprises.
  • Increase in the Modernisation Fund and Innovation Fund.
  • Strengthening the market stability reserve (MSR), the mechanism to help prevent excessive carbon price fluctuations.

Support for CDR through the Innovation Fund

Although the EU ETS is designed to incentivise emissions reductions as opposed to carbon removals, money raised through auctions of emission allowances under the ETS are reinvested into the EU’s Innovation Fund, which provides a source of funding support for technology-based CDR methods among other low-carbon technologies.

For more information on the link between CDR and the Innovation Fund, see here.

Should carbon removal be integrated into the EU ETS?

The inclusion of carbon removal (with permanent storage of captured carbon) in the EU ETS is subject to a nascent and growing debate in the EU policy ecosystem, in anticipation of the announced Commission report. Integrating negative emissions into the ETS would allow participants to offset a portion of their emissions by purchasing carbon removal credits. This, in turn, could create a potential long-term market for CDR.

Including removals in the EU ETS could have a number of benefits. As the ETS allowance cap is steadily reduced over time, integrating negative emissions would create additional market liquidity and decarbonisation options for hard-to-abate sectors. It would therefore help to satisfy demand for removal credits or allowances from hard-to-decarbonise sectors like aviation and would allow for carbon removal credits to be easily integrated into existing market infrastructure and trading platforms.

Carbon removal project developers and investors would gain greater confidence that there will be sustainable long-term demand for carbon removal credits. It would also allow removal projects to benefit from the carbon price. However, the price differential between the cost of CDR and the EU ETS carbon price will be a key consideration. The EU ETS would only incentivise CDR solutions within a certain range of the ETS price. This could be sufficient for some approaches such as BECCS (cost at scale  USD 15 – 400/tCO2) and waste-to-energy with CCS, but additional incentives would be needed for direct air capture given its higher price point (cost at scale USD 100 – 300/tCO2) – although this is expected to change as technologies improve and costs of different methods decrease. Complementary incentive mechanisms such as Carbon Contracts for Difference (CCfDs) could bridge the gap between the actual cost of certain CDR methods and the EU ETS carbon price to drive the investment needed. The Commission is considering CCfDs as part of the overall agreement on the revision of the ETS Directive.

However, it is imperative that the potential inclusion of carbon removal credits in the EU ETS does not undermine the incentive for emitters covered by the ETS to decarbonise, or the urgency with which they should do so. One option to address this risk would be to limit access or quantities of removals to specific sectors that are harder to decarbonise and more likely to have residual emissions.

Another important consideration is the impact that any inclusion of CDR in the EU ETS would have on the integrity of the market. Developing robust monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) standards would safeguard the integrity of the ETS. The introduction of these standards is underway under the EU’s CRCF legislation.

An alternative approach might be establishing a separate, regulated negative emissions market. This separate market could later be linked with the EU ETS after the differential between CDR and ETS prices has been reduced and CDR technologies have a demonstrated track record at scale.

The EU ETS & other markets

The EU ETS was the world’s first international emissions trading system when it was set up in 2005. It has since inspired the development of emissions trading in other countries and regions, including most recently the UK and China. The potential role of the UK ETS as a market for CDR was signalled in July 2023, when the UK Government stated its intention to include Greenhouse Gas Removals (GGRs) in the UK ETS, subject to further consultation, a robust MRV regime being in place and the management of wider impacts. In 2017, the EU and Switzerland signed an agreement to link their emissions trading systems. The agreement entered into force on 1 January 2020, and the link became operational in September 2020.

Timeline

27 October 2004
ETS Phase 1 (2005-2007)
ETS Phase 2 (2008-2012)
ETS Phase 3 (2013-2020)
ETS Phase 4 (2021-2030)
14 July 2021
18 December 2022
2026
27 October 2004

Entry into force of Directive 2004/101/EC establishing a scheme for GHG emission allowance trading

ETS Phase 1 (2005-2007)

The cap is set based on estimates. The majority of allowances are given for free, and ETS covers CO2 emissions from power generators and energy-intensive industries.

ETS Phase 2 (2008-2012)

The cap is lowered around 6.5% in comparison to 2005, based on actual emissions. Around 90% of the allocations are given for free, and auctions are held. N₂O emissions are included by certain countries. The aviation sector is included in 2012.

ETS Phase 3 (2013-2020)

National caps are traded with a EU-wide cap. Default auctioning method replaces the free allocation system, and the scope is expanded to include more sectors and gases.

ETS Phase 4 (2021-2030)

Current trading phase

14 July 2021

Proposal for a revision of the EU ETS released as a part of the Fit for 55 package

18 December 2022

Provisional agreement between co-legislators on the revision of the EU ETS

2026

Commission’s report on the inclusion of negative emissions in the ETS expected

Further reading

Status

Unofficial Title

EU ETS

Year

2022

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's on the Horizon?

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

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

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

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

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

Deep Dive

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

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

Transborder CO2 movement

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

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

Implementation

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

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

Timeline

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

CCS Directive signed into law  

23 April 2009

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

30 May 2018

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

2023

Revision of the CCS Directive implementation guidance documents

2023

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

April 2023

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

June 2023

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

Q3 - Q4 2023

Fourth CCS Directive Implementation Report from the Commission

Q4 2023

Expected publication of the Communication on CCS and CCU

Status

Year

2009

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023