In a Nutshell

The European Commission’s strategy on Industrial Carbon Management (ICMS) lays out what role industrial carbon management technologies, including certain carbon dioxide removal methods referred to as ‘industrial carbon removal’ (BECCS, DACCS and biogenic carbon), can play in decarbonising the EU’s economy. It also introduces measures needed to develop and scale up these technologies. As a Commission communication, the content of the ICMS is not legally binding but introduces an outline and a guide for future EU policy initiatives.

Given the current lack of a comprehensive policy framework around industrial carbon management, the ICMS is a crucial first step in creating the right conditions for the development and deployment of industrial CDR and CCS technologies. The ICMS is closely linked with the European Commission’s 2040 climate target communication, which sets out a 90% net greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction target by 2040, as well as twin targets for emission reductions and carbon removal.

The ICMS contains separate sections covering which measures are needed to scale CCS, CCU, industrial CDR, and CO2 transport and storage infrastructure. The measures relevant to CDR include considerations on developing a separate carbon removal trading scheme, introducing Important Projects of Common European Interest (ICPEIs) for CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, and boosting research, innovation and early-of-a-kind demonstration for novel industrial technologies for carbon removal.

The strategy also provides a dedicated section on public awareness, which appears to signal that the Commission recognises the importance of involving and engaging stakeholders and the public in the scale-up of industrial carbon management technologies.

However, the strategy does not clearly distinguish between CDR, CCS, and CCU, and fails to set dedicated targets for each of these. It narrowly focuses on types of CDR considered ‘industrial CDR’, namely direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS), bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and biogenic carbon.

What's on the Horizon?

In the ICMS, the Commission foresees several actions, laid out over an indicative timeline.

While no clear timeline is provided for industrial CDR (iCDR), the Commission needs to assess by 2026 if and how CDR could be accounted for in the EU Emission Trading System (ETS), or a potential removal trading system. In parallel, it also raises the need to boost dedicated funding under the EU RD&I under Horizon Europe and the Innovation Fund.

For CO2 transport and storage infrastructure, the strategy mentions that, as of 2024, the Commission:

  • should initiate preparatory work in view of a proposal for a possible future CO2 transport regulatory package, as well as working towards proposing an EU-wide CO2 transport infrastructure planning mechanism;
  • will work with member states on exploring a possible Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) for CO2 transport and storage infrastructure.

Carbon Gap unveiled its CDR Strategy for Europe in March 2024, and presented key recommendations that are intended to complement the actions foreseen in the ICM strategy to scale CDR.

Deep Dive

The origins of the ICM strategy

The EU Green Deal and the latest version of the EU Climate Law, in which the ambition of the Union’s climate targets for 2030 has been raised, both stress the importance of carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture and storage technologies in EU climate action. The Commission’s communication on Sustainable Carbon Cycles published in 2021 further underscored the importance of industrial carbon management. The communication included an aspirational target of 5MtCO2 of industrial carbon removal per year by 2030. To deliver on this target, it set out key actions to support industrial carbon management and CDR more broadly, foreseeing the need for a certification framework for carbon removal, and calling for the creation of an annually recurring CCUS Forum. Since its establishment in 2021, the CCUS Forum has informed the work on the ICMS, including through several reports from working groups focusing on CO2 infrastructure and standards, industrial partnership for CCUS, and public perception.

 

Scaling up industrial CDR

The ICM strategy acknowledges the key role CDR will play in reaching climate neutrality by indicating that it will be needed to compensate for approximately 400MtCO2e of residual emissions by 2050. This figure comprises both land-based and industrial CDR (iCDR). The ICM also states that around 280MtCO2 and 450MtCO2 would need to be captured by 2040 and 2050, respectively, without clearly specifying which share would be stored and used, and which share would be CDR.

The strategy identifies key policy gaps holding back the scaling up of iCDR, including a lack of incentives, the lack of recognition of iCDR in the current EU legislative framework and the high costs associated with various iCDR methods. The Commission presents three main actions to address these gaps:

  • Assess overall objectives for CDR in line with the 2040 targets and the goal of climate neutrality by 2050, and negative emissions thereafter.
  • Develop policy options and support mechanisms for industrial carbon removals, including if and how to account for them in the EU ETS.
  • In parallel, boost EU RD&I and early-of-a-kind demonstration for novel iCDR under Horizon Europe and the Innovation Fund.

 

Role of CCS and CCU

The ICMS lacks concrete targets for CCS and CCU beyond the 50MtCO2 yearly injection capacity target by 2030 set in the Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA). Some projections are included, but these do not clearly show how much CO2 would be used for storage, and how much would come from CCS as distinct from CDR. Furthermore, these projections are not presented as actual targets for CO2 storage.

Regarding CCS, the ICM strategy presents an extensive package of policy actions it plans to undertake, including the development of a platform for demand assessment and aggregation for CO2 transport and storage services. The strategy also calls on member states to take several measures, such as the inclusion in their national energy and climate plans (NECPs) of an assessment of their CCS needs and identified actions to support the deployment of a CCS value chain.

Regarding CCU, the ICM mentions that over time, biogenic and atmospheric CO2 will be increasingly used for CCU. It also lays out broad policy actions, such as the creation of a knowledge-sharing platform for industrial CCUS projects.

 

CO2 infrastructure as a key enabler

The Commission highlights the need to develop non-discriminatory, open-access, cross-border CO2 transport and storage infrastructure. The strategy proposes a comprehensive plan, with the ambition to develop a single market for CO2 in Europe.

From 2024, the Commission will initiate preparatory work in view of a proposal for a possible future CO2 transport regulatory package. It will also work towards proposing an EU-wide CO2 transport infrastructure planning mechanism.

Finally, the possibility of creating an Important Project of Common European Interest around CO2 transport and storage infrastructure will be explored with member states throughout 2024.

 

Room for improvement of the Industrial Carbon Management strategy

The definition of industrial CDR should be open to all safe and effective high-durability CDR methods. Currently, the ICMS unnecessarily restricts iCDR to solely DACCS, BECCS and biogenic carbon, failing to consider other promising methods, such as enhanced rock weathering.

Clear and quantifiable targets for the role industrial carbon removal should play to reach the EU 2040 target are necessary for at least two reasons. Firstly, to ensure the EU reaches durable net zero by 2050, namely a state where the remaining hard-to-abate fossil emissions are only compensated by high-durability carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Secondly, to provide visibility and predictability to the industry, considering that CDR must be scaled considerably across Europe. Furthermore, the fluidity and ambiguity between CCS, CCU and CDR should be addressed across the board and in future policy texts, clearly distinguishing each different role and climate benefits.

Clear and targeted support measures for scaling up CDR should be introduced. The current measures outlined for iCDR are a good first step, but they are not enough. Deployment incentives are essential in the scaling up of iCDR, bridging the gap between R&D funding and a potential integration into EU compliance markets.

 

To address these points, the European Commission should produce a strategy solely dedicated to CDR.

Timeline

11 Oct 2021
15 December 2021
27-28 October 2022
30 November 2022
16 March 2023
27-28 November 2023
6 February 2024
11 Oct 2021

First CCUS Forum in Brussels

15 December 2021
27-28 October 2022
30 November 2022

Commission adoption of the CRCF proposal

16 March 2023

Commission adoption of the NZIA proposal

27-28 November 2023

Third CCUS Forum in Aalborg

6 February 2024

Commission adoption of the ICMS and 2040 climate target communications

Further reading

Carbon Gap’s comments on the ICMS public consultation

Carbon Gap’s response to the 2040 target and ICM communications

Official Document

Year

2024

Unofficial Title

ICMS

In a Nutshell

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

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

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

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

What's on the Horizon?

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

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

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

Initially scheduled for 25 March 2024, the Council vote has been postponed to an unknown date, possibly until after the EU elections. Currently, there is not enough support from member states for the law to be adopted.

 

Deep Dive

Giving teeth to EU environmental rules

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

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

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

Additionality and the CRCF

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

Status of the stakeholder debate

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

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

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

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

Timeline

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

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

22 June 2022

European Commission adopts the proposal for a Nature Restoration Law

20 June 2023

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

27 June 2023

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

12 July 2023

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

19 July 2023

First trilogue negotation

5 October 2023

Second trilogue negotiation

9 November 2023

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

29 November 2023

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

27 February 2024

EU Parliament plenary adopted the provisional agreement

Status

Year

2022

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023