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 well–targeted 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.
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:
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:
- 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:
- Widening participation and spreading excellence: aims to enhance research and innovation capabilities in countries that are currently falling behind according to the European Research Area policy goals.
- Reforming and enhancing the European R&I system: focuses on training researchers for successful R&I participation while prioritising networking, gender equality, ethics and integrity.
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 CDR–related 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.
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:
- Sustainable economic models that incorporate ways to measure and incentivise the co-benefits of carbon removal;
- Addressing challenges in soil, water, nutrient and biodiversity through e.g, carbon removal;
- 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.
Regulation (EU) 2021/695 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon Europe
Deadline for the Feedback Period – Horizon Europe – Interim Evaluation
Deadline for the Public Consultation period
Publication of factual summary reports from the public consultation
Horizon 2020 ex-post evaluation report (staff working document)
High Level Expert Group work
High Level Expert Group Report publication
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.
Regulation (Eu) 2021/695 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 April 2021 establishing Horizon Europe – the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, laying down its rules for participation and dissemination, and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1290/2013 and (EU) No 1291/2013
Key Institutional Stakeholders
European CommissionDG – Research and Innovation, Commissioner Carlos Moedas
European ParliamentCommittee on Industry, Research and Energy Rapporteur: Dan Nica - S&D, RO Shadow Rapporteur: Christian Ehler - EPP CD, DE Shadow Rapporteur: Martina Dlabajová - Renew, CZ Shadow Rapporteur: Ville Niinistö - Greens/EFA, FI Shadow Rapporteur: Elena Lizzi - ID, IT Shadow Rapporteur: Evžen Tošenovský - ECR, CZ Shadow Rapporteur: Giorgos Georgiou - GUE/NGL, CY
Council of the European UnionCOMPET
In a Nutshell
The EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) is the EU’s landmark tool to prevent carbon leakage and support the EU’s increased climate ambitions. It works by putting a price on carbon emitted during the production of carbon-intensive goods entering the EU to incentivise cleaner industrial production in non-EU countries.
Carbon leakage refers to the process of shifted production and/or emissions to other jurisdictions with less stringent emission constraints. It is one of the key obstacles for the EU to reach its climate commitments. The CBAM was designed to specifically address this risk. Carbon leakage can occur when a domestic carbon price negatively impacts the competitiveness of an entity operating in this domestic context. This increased cost might result in the entity shifting its production to another country with a lower carbon price to reduce production costs. For example, a steel producer might consider relocating its production outside of the EU to avoid paying for the carbon it emits. Another possible instance of carbon leakage occurs when non-domestic producers that are not subject to the price of carbon enjoy significant competitive advantages compared to domestic producers, resulting in a shift of production abroad.
The sectors that will first be covered by the CBAM are energy-intensive industries, namely cement, iron and steel, aluminium, fertilisers, electricity and hydrogen. When fully phased in, the CBAM will capture approximately 50% of the emissions covered by the EU Emission Trading System (ETS).
The CBAM is based on the purchase of certificates by importers, which represent the embedded emissions in the imported goods. The price of the certificates will be calculated based on the weekly average auction price of EU-ETS allowances, equivalent to Euro per tonne of CO2 emitted.
The CBAM will in principle apply to the imports of goods from all non-EU countries. However, countries participating in the EU ETS and Switzerland are excluded from the mechanism.
Even though carbon removal has not been taken into account by the CBAM yet, the system provides opportunities to create incentives for CDR. There could be several ways to include CDR in the context of CBAM, including using CDR to directly reduce embedded emissions or to compensate for embedded emissions.
What's on the Horizon?
Transitional phase 1 October 2023 to end of 2025: Under the Commission’s proposal, importers will have to report emissions embedded in their goods subject to CBAM without paying a financial adjustment in a transitional phase, providing stakeholders with some time to prepare for the final system to be put in place.
Implementing acts are expected to be drafted and released throughout the transitional phase until 2026, though no clear timeline has yet been established. These include implementing acts on the calculation of default values for embedded indirect emissions and authorised declarant conditions and registries. A delegated act on certificates sale and repurchase is to be expected as well. Clarifications on the methodology for counting embedded carbon emissions, with separate methodologies for different sectors and goods, are also to be expected.
An ongoing public consultation is taking place in the United Kingdom on whether it should introduce an equivalent system to the EU CBAM or not.
While the CBAM does not include CDR explicitly yet, there are a strong rationale for including it and several different ways it could be included.
The CBAM is intended to mirror the conditions that European Economic Zone actors experience when they emit carbon and fall subject to the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). Assuming the EU-ETS includes permanent CDR within its scope to enable participants to reduce net emissions in 2030 at the earliest, a case can be made to integrate removals in the CBAM to make the two mechanisms work under the same rules. This would require clear rules on MRV mechanisms, with removals limited to hard-to-abate sectors. The CBAM could integrate CDR within its scope first, as it gradually phases in starting 2026.
CDR could be included either directly or indirectly within the CBAM:
- By authorising importers to buy durable removals to compensate a share of the embedded emissions and reduce their CBAM obligations. A clear mention of this measure could be made in Article 7. This addition could be done in accordance with the forthcoming CRCF by clearly specifying that only permanent removals are allowed.
- By recognising CDR as a way to reduce a product’s overall embedded emissions, therefore reducing the product’s net-direct emissions. For example, a steel-making factory in a non-European country could buy durable CDR credits in its country of operations to reduce the product’s emissions.
The revenues generated by the CBAM will go to the general EU budget. Since the CBAM covers many hard-to-abate sectors that will likely continue generating GHG emissions in the long term, it could be argued that some of the revenues generated by the CBAM could be used to incentivise/support CDR development/deployment. A share of the revenues could be used to finance the Innovation Fund.
Including CDR within the CBAM does come with some risks. Among others, it could enable greenwashing and disincentivise decarbonisation along value chains. While the CBAM itself might not contain the tools needed to tackle these two risks, other EU legislations could help address these risks. Greenwashing will likely be prevented by the Green Claims Directive, whilst the EU-ETS incentivises European companies to reduce their emissions.
Whether CDR could be used to circumvent the CBAM or not should be clearly defined, and if yes, clear eligibility criteria should be created and agreed upon. Effectively, only high-quality removals should qualify, and priority should be given to reducing embedded emissions in the first place. EU policymakers still need to discuss and agree on the methodologies related to embedded emissions accounting, which could provide some opportunities to promote a stringent and robust approach to CDR under the CBAM. For example, indirect emissions could be reduced or even negated if BECCS is allowed in the methodology.
CBAM in perspective
The CBAM is not only considered an essential tool to achieve the EU’s climate objectives but also serves to ensure the EU’s industrial competitiveness with the rest of the world. However, while it puts European production on a level-playing field with imported products, European exports are currently still at a disadvantage. How this issue is tackled remains to be seen, as carbon leakage could still occur if a company shifts its share of European production going to the rest of the world outside of the EU.
Other geographies are also engaging with similar ideas. The United Kingdom is currently going through a public consultation as to whether it should introduce a CBAM. Interestingly, one of the questions asked pertains to whether carbon credits should be used to offset emissions. The United States is currently reviewing the “Clean Competition Act”, which would create a CBAM for the USA. California has already put in place a system similar to the CBAM regarding electricity imports in some situations, and Canada is considering adopting a border carbon adjustment mechanism.
Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism adopted by the European Commission.
Adoption by the EU Parliament and the Council.
Publication in the Official Journal of the EU.
The EU Commission adopted detailed reporting rules for the CBAM’s transitional phase.
CBAM will enter into force in its transitional phase (importers will only need to report until 2026, after which they will be required to pay financial adjustments.
First reporting period for traders ends.
Report reviewing how the CBAM is working and whether to extend its scope to more products and services to be published.
The permanent CBAM system will gradually enter into force while the free ETS allowances for CBAM sectors will be gradually phased out.
All free ETS allowances will be phased out, thus CBAM will apply to all emissions in the sectors covered.
Regulation (EU) 2023/956 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 May 2023 establishing a carbon border adjustment mechanism (Text with EEA relevance)
Key Institutional Stakeholders
European CommissionDirectorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD)
European ParliamentCommittee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Rapporteur: Mohammed Chahim (S&D, NL) Shadow Rapporteur: Adam Jarubas (EPP, PL) Shadow Rapporteur: Nicolae Ştefănuță (Greens/EFA, RO) Shadow Rapporteur: Yannick Jadot (Greens/EFA, FR) Shadow Rapporteur: Catherine Griset (ID, FR) Shadow Rapporteur: Hermann Tertsch (ECR, ES) Shadow Rapporteur: Malin Björk (GUE/NGL, SE)
Council of the European UnionECOFIN
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:
- The European Agricultural Guarantee Fund, which totals EUR 291.1 billion, provides direct support to farmers and funds market measures.
- The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, with a total allocation of EUR 95.5 billion dedicated to rural development.
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.
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.
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.
Launched in 1962.
First big reform of the CAP to bring production closer to what the market needs.
Shift from market support to producer support through direct payments to farmers. Farmers are incentivised to endorse more environmentally friendly practices.
The CAP introduces income support tied to environmental, food safety and animal health and welfare requirements
The CAP is once again reformed to increase the competitiveness of the sector, promote sustainable farming and support rural areas.
The EU Parliament, the Council and the Commission agree on the need to reform the CAP again and shift implementation responsibilities.
A transitional agreement is put in place while the reform is negotiated.
Adoption of the CAP 2023-2027.
The CAP 2023-2027 and the CAP strategic plans enter into force.
The EU Commission will submit a report to assess the joint CAP strategic plans in reaching Green Deal targets.
Each country will present an annual performance report.
The Commission will conduct its first performance review of the CAP strategic plans.
The Commission will conduct an interim evaluation of the CAP 2023-2027.
The Commission will conduct a second performance review of the CAP strategic plans.
- Regulation (EU) 2021/2116 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 2 December 2021 on the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy and repealing Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013
- Regulation (EU) 2021/2115 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 2 December 2021 establishing rules on support for strategic plans to be drawn up by member states under the common agricultural policy (CAP Strategic Plans) and financed by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) and by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Regulations (EU) No 1305/2013 and (EU) No 1307/2013
- Regulation (EU) 2021/2117 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 2 December 2021 amending Regulations (EU) No 1308/2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products, (EU) No 1151/2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs, (EU) No 251/2014 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of aromatised wine products and (EU) No 228/2013 laying down specific measures for agriculture in the outermost regions of the Union
In a Nutshell
The European Climate Law (ECL) sets a Union-wide, legally binding obligation to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The EU Institutions and member states are bound to adopt the necessary measures to meet the target; the Law provides a solid foundation on which to anchor future EU climate policy.
The Climate Law addresses the necessary steps to reach the end goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Law sets a more ambitious target of at least 55% emissions reductions by 2030 compared to 1990s levels, up from the previous 40% target. The 2030 targets are one part. The Law also includes a process for setting EU climate targets for 2040, which are currently in the making. The Law is a central element in achieving the European Green Deal and was the starting point of a set of proposals by the EU Commission set out in the Fit-for-55 package.
Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is explicitly and implicitly referred to throughout the text. It introduces a distinction between emission reductions and removals within the EU 2030 emissions reduction target, capping the contribution of land-based CDR through natural sinks based on the Land-Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation. Additionally, the ECL acknowledges the urge to enhance carbon sinks whether through natural or technological solutions. A commitment to achieving negative emissions after 2050 is also included in the Law.
What's on the Horizon?
By 30 September 2023, and every five years thereafter, in line with the Paris Agreement stocktake exercise, the European Commission will assess the collective and individual progress of Member States towards achieving the 2050 climate neutrality objective and assess progress on climate adaptation.
Looking ahead, since the EU climate law gives legal teeth to the principle of net negative emissions, the need to reflect this objective in parallel EU climate legislation such as the EU Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) carbon pricing mechanism is starting to gain traction. The Commission is expected to produce a report by 2026 regarding the feasibility of integrating removals within the system.
Additionally, since the climate negativity target binds Member States on a collective basis, the distributional question of how to operationalize the effort sharing deriving from this target will also have to be addressed in future policy developments.
Separate targets for emissions reductions and removals
The climate law formally enshrines the objective to increase the EU’s interim 2030 emissions reduction target from 40% to at least 55% compared to 1990 levels.
When the European Commission first came up with this proposal to step up ambition, moving from 40% gross to 55% net emission reductions, it was criticised for creating a net target that did not differentiate between reductions and removals. Academic voices and campaigners responded by initiating a campaign calling for separate targets, which the European Parliament took on board as part of its own negotiating mandate. Campaigners indeed voiced the fear that an overreliance on carbon removal risked distracting from or delaying action on emissions reduction, leading to the so-called “moral hazard” or “mitigation deterrence” effect.
The recommendation to account separately for carbon sinks was finally mirrored in the ECL, as the 2030 target included a capped contribution of 225 million tonnes of carbon dioxide removal through natural sinks, linking to the pre-existing commitment made under the LULUCF Regulation. Since then, the LULUCF Regulation has been revised and the nature-based target was increased to 330 million tonnes by 2030, de facto increasing the ambition of the 2030 targets. However, the capped contribution of 225 million tonnes remains.
No definition of carbon removal nor hard-to-abate emissions
Despite formally acknowledging the need to balance emissions with removals, the ECL does not introduce a definition of what constitutes carbon dioxide removal. The Law mostly refers to removals as natural sinks, de facto looking at the CDR contribution mainly through the lenses of land use and forestry.
However, this gap in the definition could be expected to be addressed in the proposal for a carbon removal certification framework, which the ECL mentions in the context of enhancing carbon sinks and supporting carbon farming.
Finally, the Law acknowledges the role of “removals of greenhouse gases” as a necessary second step to avoiding emissions at source and compensating for residual emissions from “sectors where decarbonisation is the most challenging”, without further elaborating on what constitutes a hard-to-abate emission or sector. Hard to abate emissions should be explicitly defined.
Some acknowledgements of technology-based solutions
The role of more engineered forms of removals, including those enabled by carbon capture and storage technology, is not expanded upon in the Law. One reference is however made in the legislation to the “sinks” that will be needed to balance anthropogenic emissions including both “natural and technological solutions.”
The climate law also includes a recital on the need to promote investment certainty and to introduce policy incentives for technological innovations that can fast-track the transition to a climate-neutral economy, providing an indirect legal hook for the scale-up of CDR solutions.
Lastly, whilst the quantified contribution of natural sinks is specified in the ECL, no target is given for other forms of removal methods.
An aspirational, non-binding target for technological solutions was however subsequently proposed as part of the European Commission’s communication on sustainable carbon cycles, which calls for a 5 million tonnes objective by 2030, thereby giving a strong signal to investors and formally recognising the need to increase research and deployment for these types of solutions.
New Scientific Advisory Body
The law officially establishes the launch of an independent scientific body to provide unbiased advice on the EU’s climate neutrality pathway and encourages Member States to set up their own entities to do so.
Interestingly, the ECL specifically mandates the advisory body to provide scientific knowledge on climate modelling and monitoring but also on “promising research and innovation” which contribute to increasing removals, indirectly mandating the advisory body to assess the potential of more emerging types of carbon removal methods.
Right-sizing the EU carbon budget for the 2040 climate target
The climate law enshrines the objective for the European Commission to propose an intermediate 2040 climate target within six months of the first global stocktake exercise of the Paris Agreement. For transparency and accountability purposes, the law notes that the European Commission will in parallel publish an indicative greenhouse gas budget for the period spanning 2030-2050 defined as the total net greenhouse gas emissions (expressed as CO2 equivalent and providing separate information on emissions and removals) that are expected to be emitted without compromising the Paris Agreement. The law specifies that here too, the recommendations of the Advisory Board will be solicited and that the Commission will publish the underlying methodology used.
EU Parliament declares climate emergency and urges EU Member States to commit to net zero GHG emissions by 2050
European Commission presents its European Green Deal flagship plan to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050
European Parliament adopts its negotiating mandate, notably calling for a 60% emissions reduction target and a separate accounting of removals and emissions
Council adopts general approach endorsing the -55% net emission reduction target for 2030
The three EU institutions reach a political agreement
The EU Climate Law enters into force, formally enshrining the climate neutrality target into binding legislation
Deal reached on increasing the carbon sink capacity of the EU through land use and forestry sector
EU Commission to deliver its first report, and every five years thereafter, in line with the Paris stock taking exercise
EU Climate Law (ECL)
Regulation (EU) 2021/1119 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 June 2021 establishing the framework for achieving climate neutrality and amending Regulations (EC) No 401/2009 and (EU) 2018/1999 (‘European Climate Law’)
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 low–emissions 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 IV 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 IV. 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 favor of the revision. Now, EU member states need to give the final green light before the law enters into force.
- The energy policy framework for the post-2030 period is under discussion.
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.
Energy for the future: renewable sources of energy, indicative EU target of 12% renewables by 2010.
Directive on electricity production from renewables: national indicative targets
Directive on biofuels and renewable fuels for transport: national targets for biofuels
RED I: EU target of 20% renewables by 2020 and national binding targets
RED II: 32% renewables target for 2030 – This is the piece of legislation that is currently in force
RED III: EU Green Deal: EC proposal to raise target for 2030 to 40%
Council and Parliament reach provisional agreement on the revision
A last-minute objection postponed the adoption of RED IV
The Council reached an agreement on RED IV
The EU Parliament voted to in favor of the revision
Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL amending Directive (EU) 2018/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council and Directive 98/70/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the promotion of energy from renewable sources, and repealing Council Directive (EU) 2015/652
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.
The Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action entered into force
Deadline for member states to submit their draft NECPs for the period 2021-2030
EU Commission communicated an overall assessment and country-specific recommendations
Deadline for member states to submit their final NECPs
Deadline for member states to submit draft updated versions of their NECPs
Deadline for member states to submit final updated versions of the NECPs
Deadline for member states to submit draft NECPs covering the period 2031-2040
Deadline for member states to submit final NECPs covering the period 2031-2040
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.
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
Planned Commission adoption of the Communication, which will lay the foundation for a draft law setting the 2040 target
- Call for evidence for an impact assessment on the new EU climate target for 2040
- Letter from academics and climate experts urging European legislators to adopt separate targets for carbon removals
- 2023 — the Year of Shaping EU’s 2040 Climate Target, by Eve Tamme
- Scientific advice for the determination of an EU-wide 2040 climate target and a greenhouse gas budget for 2030–2050
- Carbon removal: the key to getting the 2040 climate target right
Key Institutional Stakeholders
European CommissionDG Climate Action (CLIMA), Unit A.2: Foresight, Economic Analysis & Modelling DG Climate Action (CLIMA), Unit A.1: Strategic Coordination, Legal & Institutional DG Energy (ENER), Unit A.4: Chief Economist Team DG Energy (ENER), Unit A.1: Interinstitutional, policy coordination and planning
Additional StakeholdersThe European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change will inform the Commission’s assessment of a suitable 2040 climate target
In a Nutshell
The Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA) is a legislative proposal from the European Commission from March 2023 that aims to provide a stable and simplified regulatory environment to support the scale-up of net zero technologies. The NZIA aims to reach a goal of at least 40% manufacturing capacity of strategic net zero technologies in the EU according to annual deployment needs.
The Act sets out enabling conditions, streamlined permitting processes, and one-stop shops for net zero technology manufacturing projects. It differentiates between ‘net zero technologies’ (at least TRL 8) and ‘innovative net zero technologies’ (lower TRL, and can benefit from regulatory sandboxes to foster innovation). It proposes a list of eight strategic net zero technologies that would benefit from even faster permitting process within what are defined as “net zero strategic projects”:
- Solar photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies,
- Onshore wind and offshore renewables,
- Heat pumps and geothermal energy,
- Electrolysers and fuel cells,
- Sustainable biogas/biomethane technologies,
- Carbon capture and storage (CCS),
- Grid technologies.
The Act establishes an annual EU CO2 injection capacity goal of 50 million tonnes. This goal will be adjusted when the regulation is incorporated into the EEA Agreement to account for additional capacity in Norway and Iceland and is expected to grow post-2030; according to the Commission’s estimates, the EU could need to capture up to 550 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2050 to meet the net zero objective, including for carbon removals.
In one of the world’s firsts, oil and gas producers are subject to an individual contribution to this target, making them directly responsible for building and operating the newly mandated CO2 injection capacity. The contributions will be calculated based on a “pro-rata” basis, accounting for their share of oil and gas production within the EU during 2020-2023.
The Act also aims to facilitate access to markets through public procurement, auctions, and support for private demand. It focuses on ensuring the availability of skilled workforce and foresees net zero industrial partnerships with third countries.
What's on the Horizon?
The NZIA proposal by the European Commission has entered ordinary legislative procedure to reach a formal adoption by the European Parliament and the Council. The European Parliament Environment Committee (ENVI) will vote its opinion on the file in September, followed by the Industry Committee’s (ITRE) deliberation on its position in October. The Council is due to agree on its negotiating position (general approach) by early December. Soon after, trialogues negotiations between the EU co-legislators are expected to kick off.
To provide dedicated funding support to scale up clean technologies, the Commission was set to propose a European Sovereignty Fund by Summer 2023 within the context of the multi-annual financial framework (MFF). On 20 June, the Commission proposed, instead, to establish a ‘Strategic Technologies for Europe Platform’ (STEP), to provide an immediately available tool to member states. The STEP proposal will need to be approved by the European Parliament and Council.
As one pillar of a larger Green Deal Industrial Plan, the NZIA is meant to strengthen and support the EU’s capacity to reach its climate goals. It ensures Europe seizes the potential to be a world leader in the global net zero industry in the context of strong support for net zero technologies coming from different parts of the world, such as the United States’ IRA.
(Strategic) net zero technologies
The NZIA proposes key developments for net zero technologies. Two main aspects of the definition are particularly relevant: (1) the definition is not technology-neutral, it identifies key areas to be addressed, and further lists a family of eight strategic net-zero technologies, which benefit from even faster permitting, priority status, and in some circumstance of overriding public interest, and (2) net zero technologies must be at least Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 8. CDR is not explicitly listed as a strategic net zero technology, and the TRL 8 requirement would exclude most CDR methods. However, if based on TRL only, some could fall under the definition of ‘innovative net zero technologies’, e.g., some forms of direct air capture are considered TRL 7. This flaw of the proposal could be addressed by co-legislators by adding carbon removal in the definition of net zero technologies and in the related annex.
CO2 injection capacity target to incentivise CO2 storage infrastructure
The NZIA proposes a 50 million tonnes per year of CO2 injection capacity in the EU by 2030. The act rightly identifies the lack of storage capacity as one of the largest bottlenecks for CO2 capture investments. One of the key aspects of the act is the transparency of CO2 storage capacity, including the obligation for member states to make publicly available data on sites that can be permitted on their territory, as well as reporting on CO2 capture projects in progress, and their needs for injection and storage capacity. The NZIA clarifies that CO2 injection capacity will also be available to accommodate CDR, but provisions are not proposed to ensure the shared CO2 infrastructure can efficiently be used to accommodate both CCS and CDR methods. A comprehensive and coordinated approach to carbon management that considers both CCS and CDR is needed to ensure that limited CO2 storage capacity is used effectively to reach the EU’s climate neutrality targets. The target will need to be continuously reassessed to meet the storage needs in the EU, especially beyond 2030. Furthermore, separate provisions to ensure adequate transport infrastructure should be foreseen. The European Commission estimates that about 550 million tonnes of CO2 may need to be captured annually by 2050 to meet the net zero objective.
Oil and gas producers’ responsibility to develop the EU CO2 injection capacity has the potential to be a world-leading initiative
The NZIA Article 18 introduces an innovative obligation on oil and gas producers to take responsibility for building EU CO2 storage infrastructure subject to the EU’s injection capacity target. This obligation could introduce an element of producer responsibility for fossil fuel producers in a similar way as producers of packaging, car tires, and other products are required by law to take responsibility for the environmental footprint of end-of-life disposal. If confirmed, this provision would also allow the development of open carbon storage sources by mapping and hosting transparent, open data on carbon storage resources, much of which is held today by private companies. Critical details of this obligation, such as how different sources of CO2 for storage are prioritised or barred, which entities, beyond oil and gas producers, are required to build the CO2 infrastructure, and the procedures to determine their location remain open and need further attention.
Fresh funding is needed
The proposal establishes new initiatives, such as the “Net Zero Europe Platform”, that will discuss the financial needs of the net zero strategic projects and could be key in advising how the financing of these projects can be achieved. Beyond this, the NZIA is anchored in already existing funding mechanisms such as Innovation Fund, InvestEU, Horizon Europe, Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI), the Recovery and Resilience Facility, and Cohesion Policy programmes. Clarity on new and additional funding will be key, as bigger goals will require bigger means that can support the variety of CDR methods at different TRL stages.
The Green Deal Industrial Plan Communication
European Commission legislative proposal on the Net Zero Industry Act (NZIA)
Publication of Draft Report by MEP Christian Ehler
Deadline for submission of amendments – ENVI Committee
Deadline for submission of amendments – ITRE Committee
Deadline to provide feedback to the Commission on the NZIA proposal
ENVI vote on Committee’s Opinion
ITRE Committee vote
Council to adopt its general approach
- The Green Deal Industrial Plan, European Commission
- Investment needs assessment and funding availabilities to strengthen EU’s net zero technology manufacturing capacity, Commission Staff Document
- Making good on the “net” in net zero: Carbon Gap reaction to the Net-Zero Industry Act, 2023
- European Commission Staff Working Document on the Net-Zero Industry Act
- Carbon Gap’s feedback to NZIA Consultation
Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on establishing a framework of measures for strengthening Europe’s net-zero technology products manufacturing ecosystem (Net Zero Industry Act)
Key Institutional Stakeholders
European CommissionDG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW)
European ParliamentCommittee responsible: ITRE Rapporteur: Christian Ehler (EPP, DE) Shadow rapporteur: Tsvetelina Penkova (S&D, BG) Shadow rapporteur: Christophe Grudler (Renew, FR) Shadow rapporteur: Damien Carême (Greens/EFA, FR) Shadow rapporteur: Marc Botenga (GUE/NGL, BE) Shadow rapporteur: Paolo Borchia (Identity& Democracy Group, IT) Shadow rapporteur: Evžen Tošenovský (European Conservatives and Reformists Group, CZ)
Council of the European UnionCouncil configuration: COMPET
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.
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 emission 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 has been explored through a call for evidence published by the UK ETS Authority in 2022, the outcome of which is expected in 2023. 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.
Entry into force of Directive 2004/101/EC establishing a scheme for GHG emission allowance trading
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.
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.
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.
Current trading phase
Proposal for a revision of the EU ETS released as a part of the Fit for 55 package
Provisional agreement between co-legislators on the revision of the EU ETS
Commission’s report on the inclusion of negative emissions in the ETS expected
- Should negative emissions be included in the EU ETS? by Eve Tamme
- Review of the EU ETS, European Parliament briefing, 2023
Directive (EU) 2023/959 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 May 2023 amending Directive 2003/87/EC establishing a system for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Union and Decision (EU) 2015/1814 concerning the establishment and operation of a market stability reserve for the Union greenhouse gas emission trading system (Text with EEA relevance)
Key Institutional Stakeholders
European CommissionDG Climate Action (CLIMA) Unit B.1: Policy Coordination, International Carbon Markets DG Climate Action (CLIMA) Unit B.2: Implementation, Policy Support & ETS Registry
European ParliamentCommittee responsible: ENVI Rapporteur: Peter Liese (EPP, DE)
Council of the European UnionCouncil configuration: ENV
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 European Parliament and Council.
A public feedback period on the European Commission’s proposal is open until 3 November 2023, which is likely to be extended.
A study to support the impact assessment of the Proposal is expected to be finalised in September 2023.
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.
Directive Of The European Parliament And Of The Council on Soil Monitoring and Resilience (Soil Monitoring Law)
Soil Monitoring Law