In a Nutshell

In February 2024, the European Commission presented a Communication entitled “Securing our future: Europe’s 2040 climate target and path to climate neutrality by 2050, building a sustainable, just and prosperous society”, recommending a net reduction of 90% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2040 compared to 1990 levels.

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

In its 2040 target communication, the Commission breaks down the 90% emission reduction target into twin targets, suggesting that by 2040, the EU should have less than 850 MtCO2 remaining emissions (so-called “residual emissions”) with a maximum of 400 MtCO2 removed through industrial and land-based solutions. However, it does not go as far as proposing a percentage target for removed carbon at this stage, nor does it clearly specify how much different types of removals should contribute to the overarching amount of removals. The Communication also considers the role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) in decarbonising the economy towards 2040.

Whilst the Communication does not impose any legally binding obligations on the EU, it will serve as the basis for a forthcoming Commission proposal to amend the European Climate Law as part of the post-2030 climate policy agenda. The Communication outlines eight building blocks necessary to achieve the 2040 target, which represent the recommended focus areas for the next Commission’s legislative mandate.

The 2040 climate target is closely linked to the Industrial Carbon Management Strategy, which elaborates on the Communication’s vision for how so-called ‘industrial carbon removal’ (iCDR, defined as BECCS, DACCS and biogenic carbon), CCS and CCU can help deliver climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, and net negative emissions thereafter.

What's on the Horizon?

The publication of the Communication is the first step towards coming to an agreement on the climate targets for 2040, which will result in the adoption of an amended European Climate Law with a new binding 2040 target and an accompanying package of proposals for sectoral policies from the European Commission.

  • Following the publication of the Communication, the Commission’s services (at Directorate General level) will kick off the work on the legislative proposal to revise the European Climate Law and enshrine the 2040 target, with DG CLIMA leading this file. The proposal is expected to be adopted by the Commission in the first quarter of 2025.
  • Member states in the Council will have a first exchange of views during the Environment Council on 25 March 2024, followed by a policy debate on 17 June 2024.
  • The European Parliament will form a lead committee responsible for the file and appoint a rapporteur, with the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) likely to be named in charge.
  • Following the June 2024 elections, the new European Parliament and the Council will both propose amendments to the Commission’s proposal and negotiate the final text.
  • Once approved, the 2040 target will serve as the basis for the EU’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. The NDC will need to be submitted ahead of COP30, in November 2025. Therefore, the EU will strive to find an agreement by that date, although the revised Climate Law will likely be finalised in early 2026.
  • The adoption of the revised European Climate Law serves as the foundation for a new package of legislative proposals, aimed at realising the EU’s 2040 climate target.

Deep Dive

Understanding the targets

The proposed target does not yet have any binding effect on the EU or its member states. It serves to initiate a political debate that will inform the revision of the European Climate Law during the next legislative term. The preparatory process is expected to be challenging, as the 2040 target will need to strike a balance between climate ambition and pragmatism, given a changing political landscape with less focus on climate policy combined with a growing focus on industrial competitiveness and cost of living.

In the Communication and the accompanying Impact Assessment, the Commission considered three scenarios varying in ambition, taking the input from the public consultation and the advice of the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change (ESABCC) into consideration:

  • Scenario 1: GHG reduction up to 80%
  • Scenario 2: GHG reduction between 85-90%
  • Scenario 3: GHG reduction between 90-95%.

The recommended -90% target, thus, falls between scenarios 2 and 3 and sets a floor for remaining emissions (850 MtCO2e) and a ceiling for removals (400 MtCO2) by 2040. The ESABCC recommendation was to adopt a target in keeping with scenario 3 of 90-95% emission reductions by 2040. The Communication’s focus on carbon management aligns more with Scenario 3, which requires early deployment of CDR, CCS and CCU technologies. The maximum target of 400 MtCO2 to be removed through industrial and land-based solutions effectively limits the extent to which the EU can rely on carbon removals to reach the 2040 target. Depending on its final level and design, the target could also potentially affect the ability of different CDR methods to scale and effectively contribute to reaching climate neutrality and net negative emissions thereafter.

Apart from those estimations, no other quantified CDR-related projections were included in the Communication. The Commission Impact Assessment does provide projections for removals under all three scenarios. Scenario 3, the most ambitious of all three, projects 391 MtCO2 to be removed from the atmosphere by 2040, amounting to -75 and -317 MtCO2 of industrial and land removals respectively. This falls short of the 400 MtCO2 to be removed according to the Commission Communication. The fact that the total amount of removals is not broken down into separate sub targets for industrial and land removals is incompatible with the like-for-like principle, according to which fossil emissions can only be compensated by permanent CDR.

Delivering on the 2040 targets: the role of carbon removal

  1. Asserting that the path towards climate neutrality ought to be complemented with a sustainable and competitive economy able to withstand geopolitical risks, the Commission outlines eight building blocks of the future policy agenda. These building blocks could incorporate CDR in various ways.
    1. A resilient and decarbonised energy system aims at phasing out fossil fuels and building clean supply chains and will require a broad portfolio of zero-/low-carbon technologies Here, iCDR can help balance residual emissions from hard-to-abate sectors like heavy industry and transport, as well as compensate for the last tons of fossil emissions in the power sector, enabling the transition to net-zero.
    2. An industrial revolution with competitiveness seeks to make Europe an attractive destination for investments, which could mean increased capital flows and efforts to de-risk investments in early-stage CDR projects.
    3. Infrastructure to deliver, transport and store CO2 will be essential for industrial decarbonisation and will also help scale up certain industrial carbon removal technologies like Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage (DACCS) and Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). Such a scale up of CO2 infrastructure will require significant investments accompanied by a non-discriminatory regulatory framework that is favourable to iCDR.
    4. Enhanced emissions reduction in agriculture could promote sustainable agricultural practices and carbon farming activities.
    5. Climate policy as investment policy is expected to create a stronger business case for zero- and low-carbon technologies and direct public investments towards sectors where high investment risks jeopardise commercial viability, which could help scale up and decrease the costs of DACCS/BECCS.
    6. Fairness, solidarity and social policies could ease the burden and costs of the clean transition with a growing CDR sector offering job opportunities for those previously employed by fossil fuels companies, whilst carbon farming practices provide an additional income stream for forest and land managers.

    EU climate diplomacy and partnerships should help the EU continue pushing for global climate ambition, promote successful EU policies and accelerate the work being done under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

  2. Risk management and resilience will see the EU develop a comprehensive climate adaptation strategy. In this context, land-based CDR can provide additional benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem restoration.

Room for improvement: integrating CDR in the 2040 climate framework

The publication of the 2040 Communication is a positive development for CDR in the EU, as it recognises the role of CDR in delivering climate neutrality and calls for their early deployment. In order for CDR to truly be a part of the solution to climate change, several improvements should be made.

  • The 90% net GHG emissions target for 2040 should be split into quantified “twin” targets for gross emissions reduction and CDR, both expressed as minimum contributions. This will provide clarity regarding each component’s contribution while safeguarding against over-reliance on removals.
  • The 2040 removal targets should be further split into sub targets for permanent and land-based removals, thereby ensuring clarity and visibility and providing the necessary investment incentives. Importantly, it will also recognise the difference between their contributions in line with the like-for-like principle and reduce the risks of mitigation deterrence.
  • The European Climate Law should adopt the notion of “permanent” rather than “industrial” removals in line with the Carbon Removal Certification Framework. Currently, the 2040 communication and the Impact Assessment differentiate between land removals and “iCDR”, defined as DACCS, BECCS and biogenic carbon. Such distinction fails to consider other promising methods, such as enhanced rock weathering. Only developing a future-proof diverse portfolio of CDR methods can ensure the EU meets its climate targets.

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

 

Read more about Carbon Gap’s position on CDR under the 2040 climate framework here.

Timeline

29 July 2021
6 February 2024
Q1 2025
November 2025
29 July 2021

Enforcement of the European Climate Law

6 February 2024

Publication of the 2040 Communication

Q1 2025

Commission proposal to revise the European Climate Law

November 2025

Deadline to submit updated NDCs

Official Document

Year

2024

Unofficial Title

2040 targets

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,
  • Battery/storage,
  • 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 provisional agreement was adopted by the European Parliament Industry Committee on 22 February. The Parliament plenary will vote on 25 April. The EU Ministers will need to formally adopt it and it will become EU law once it is published in the Official Journal of the EU.  

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. A provisional agreement on the STEP was reached on 7 February.

By the end of 2028, the Commission must assess the balance between CO2 capture, transport and storage capacity. Member states may be able to ask for adjustments in their contributions in case of an imbalance. The Commission must also propose a potential CO2 injection capacity by 31 December 2028.

A market assessment for captured CO2 will be conducted after three years of entry into force, potentially leading to legislative proposals to address shortcomings, especially for hard-to-abate emissions.

Four years after the entry into force, the Commission also needs to assess the possibility of including other technologies in the list of net-zero technologies, opening a window of opportunity for CDR. The evaluation will take into account: (1) updates to the National Energy and Climate Plans, (2) the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan and (3) the State of the Energy Union Report.

Deep Dive

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.

Timeline

1 February 2023
16 March 2023
26 May 2023
13 June 2023
19 June 2023
27 June 2023
20 September 2023
25 October 2023
21 November 2023
7 December 2023
13 December 2023
22 January 2024
6 February 2024
22 February 2024
25 April 2024
31 December 2028
1 February 2023

The Green Deal Industrial Plan Communication

16 March 2023
26 May 2023

Publication of Draft Report by MEP Christian Ehler

13 June 2023

Deadline for submission of amendments – ENVI Committee

19 June 2023

Deadline for submission of amendments – ITRE Committee

27 June 2023

Deadline to provide feedback to the Commission on the NZIA proposal

20 September 2023

ENVI Committee adopts draft opinion

25 October 2023

ITRE Committee vote

21 November 2023

EU Parliament plenary adopted the parliament’s report

7 December 2023

The Council adopted its general approach

13 December 2023

First trilogue on the file

22 January 2024

Second trilogue on the file

6 February 2024

Third trilogue on the file. The EU Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement.

22 February 2024

ITRE Committee adopted the provisional agreement

25 April 2024

Plenary vote on the provisional agreement

31 December 2028

Deadline for the Commission to potentially propose a CO2 injection capacity target for 2040

Unofficial Title

NZIA

Year

2023

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023

In a Nutshell

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

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

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

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

What's on the Horizon?

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

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

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

The ENVI Committee adopted its report on 11 March 2024. The EU Parliament plenary agreed on its negotiating position on 10 April 2024, which waters down the Commission’s proposal.

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

Deep Dive

Context of the law

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

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

What does it look like in practice?

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

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

Room for improvement

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

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

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

Timeline

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

EU soil strategy for 2030

24 October 2022

Public consultation on new soil health legislation

5 July 2023

The EU Commission published its legislative proposal

24 October 2023

The ENVI Comittee published its draft report on the file

3 November 2023

Public feedback period deadline on the European Commission’s proposal 

13 November 2023

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

27 November 2023

Deadline to submit amendments to ENVI Committee draft report

18 December 2023

First policy debate on the file for the European Council

13 February 2024

AGRI Committee adopted its opinion report

11 March 2024

ENVI Committee adopted its report on the file

10 April 2024

EU Parliament plenary adopted its report

17 June 2024 (TBC)

Council to adopt its general approach

Status

Year

2023

Official Document

Unofficial Title

Soil Monitoring Law

Last Updated

22/08/2023

In a Nutshell

On 19 February 20204, the European Commission reached a provisional political agreement on the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF), a voluntary regulatory framework for the certification of permanent carbon removals, carbon farming and carbon storage in products. The Framework has been developed to  facilitate and speed up the deployment of  permanent carbon removal, carbon farming and carbon storage in products activities, as a complement to sustained emission reductions, fight greenwashing and harmonise carbon removal market conditions.

The provisional agreement distinguishes four types of certified activities: (1) carbon farming (which includes (a) temporary carbon storage activities and (b) soil emission reduction activities), (2) temporary carbon storage in long-lasting products, and (3) permanent carbon removal. In order to ensure the quality of carbon removals certified under the framework, removals need to meet several quality criteria (so-called “QU.A.L.ITY” criteria), covering the aspects of quantification, additionality, long-term storage, and sustainability.

Under the framework, the European Commission, assisted by an Expert Group, will develop methodologies for the certification of a range of carbon removal methods and recognise certification schemes. The certification schemes will be responsible for setting up and maintaining interoperable public registries to track and control the carbon removal units certified under the Framework. Within four years, these will be replaced by a common, Union-wide registry. Meanwhile, certification bodies, supervised by member states, will carry out certification audits and the issuing of certificates.

The provisional agreement has made important strides compared with the Commission’s first proposal, namely by aligning the definition of carbon removal with that of the IPCC; clarifying the distinction between carbon removal and emissions reductions; and defining certified activities (e.g., permanent carbon removal, carbon storage in long-lasting products) in a more inclusive and future-proof way. Other areas of progress include improved liability requirements in the event of reversal, and improved transparency and accountability through a comprehensive Union-wide registry requiring disclosure of essential information (e.g., expected duration of carbon storage, quantity and status of certified units, etc.). However, the agreed text provides only limited guardrails for how the carbon removal units generated under the framework could or should be used, indicating that other EU legislation should fill in this gap.

What's on the Horizon?

2024: In the next steps, the provisional agreement will be submitted for endorsement to member state representatives at Council level and to the European Parliament.

  • Following the last trilogue, a provisional agreement on the file was found on 19 February 2024.
  • The preliminary agreement was approved by the Council’s COREPER on 6 March and by the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee on 11 March.
  • The European Parliament plenary adopted the final text of the CRCF on 10 April 2024. The Council will need to adopt the agreement before the CRCF is published in the Official Journal of the EU.

Expert Group: The Expert Group on carbon removal kicked off their work in March 2023. Among other tasks, the group will provide technical advice to the Commission on the development of the methodologies under the CRCF. The next meeting will take in October.

Methodologies: In parallel to the legislative process, work has started on detailed methodologies for different carbon removal activities that will be set out in separate Commission delegated acts. The first methodologies are expected to be ready in 2026, while certification of the first units under the CRCF is expected in 2026/2027.

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

Deep Dive

Aim of the file

The stated goal of the CRCF is to facilitate the uptake of high-quality carbon removals to support the achievement of EU climate commitments, such as those under the Paris Agreement and the Climate Law. The Framework aims to create trust in carbon removals, by setting strong requirements on aspects such as monitoring and liability, and ensuring key ‘quality’ criteria are met – namely ensuring accurate quantification, additionality, long-term storage, and sustainability of certified activities. The Framework also aims to increase transparency by creating a public registry to document the generation, trading, and use of certified carbon removal units.

Meaning for climate goals

By establishing this Framework, the European Union works towards reaching its goal of climate neutrality in 2050 and net negative emissions thereafter, both of which will rely heavily on significantly upscaling carbon removal. As the first legislative file focusing primarily on carbon removal, it also enshrines at a definition for carbon removal that is aligned with scientific consensus (i.e. with IPCC) at the policy level.

By setting strong criteria around quantification, additionality, long-term storage, and sustainability, the Framework further supports a robust approach to governing carbon removal activities, which will be further supported by activity-level methodologies.

Despite these strong criteria on the supply side, the Framework does not provide a comprehensive set of guardrails around the use of units. The way carbon removal activities and units are adopted by public and private actors in their climate change mitigation strategies will strongly inform their . The Framework only states that certified units can solely be used for the EU’s climate objectives and nationally determined contribution (NDC) and should not contribute to third countries’ NDCs and international compliance schemes (e.g., CORSIA). These rules, including on the corresponding adjustments, will be reviewed in 2026. While the CRCF requirement that the four different types of units remain distinct from each other is an important step in ensuring that the greenwashing practices in the voluntary carbon market do not continue, it still leaves room for ambiguity. Strong guardrails on use are needed to simultaneously limit greenwashing and mitigation deterrence, while promoting the adoption of carbon removal by a range of actors in different sectors and activities, channelling a range of revenue streams to scaling up CDR activities.

Interaction with other legislative files

The Framework is expected to work hand-in-hand with other EU instruments to support the sustainable integration of carbon removal into climate change mitigation activities in the Union. The Framework has emerged in tandem with significant EU climate policies, namely communications on . The CRCF preamble references the CDR-supporting actions foreseen in the ICMS, and additionally highlights that ‘it is appropriate for the Commission to assess options for Union targets for carbon removals, including clearly distinguishing a separate target for permanent carbon removals’ – going further than the 2040 targets communication in terms of laying out the need to define the role of permanent CDR.

With respect to corporate claims, the CRCF will interact with the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and the upcoming Green Claims Directive, which respectively set rules on how corporates report their climate action and regulate public environmental claims. The Green Claims Directive has not yet reached a provisional agreement, with only the European Parliament having adopted a mandate for the trilogues that are expected in the next legislative cycle. The Parliament is driving towards strong principles for corporate compensation claims, namely ensuring that any compensation only takes place for residual emissions, and any fossil-derived emissions must be compensated with permanent removal credits (‘like-for-like’). Any carbon removal credits used for compensation are expected to be required to be CRCF-compliant. The Parliament’s direction on the Directive also enshrines the possibility of using carbon credits (namely those certified under CRCF) towards corporate ‘contribution’ claims where, instead of compensating specific emissions, companies make a financial contribution towards an outcome, but may not claim any specific improvement in climate impact resulting from this contribution. The Council has not yet reached a position on Green Claims. The trilogue negotiations on this file are expected to commence during the next legislative cycle, after the new Parliament is in place.

Supporting strong corporate claims is only one application for the CRCF. The Framework has the potential to underpin diverse applications of CDR that broaden its uptake and contribute to the scaling-up of removals in service of EU climate goals. CRCF will certainly form the basis for recognising and rewarding land managers for carbon removal (and soil emission reduction) activities, contributing to the delivery of emission removal (and reduction) targets under the LULUCF Regulation. But, as the EU moves towards enshrining specific 2040 targets for nature-based as well as for permanent removals, the CRCF should enable the development of policies aiming to develop all types of removals (e.g. by enabling the inclusion of CDR activities in public procurement programmes, or by accounting for CDR in sectoral policies, such as building codes).

Timeline

15 December 2021
30 November 2022
7 March 2023
11 May 2023
21-22 June 2023
30 August 2023
24 October 2023
25-26 Oct 2023
17 November 2023
21 November 2023
2023
28 November 2023
23 January 2024
19 February 2024
10 April 2024
15-17 April 2024
2024
2025
2026
15 December 2021

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

30 November 2022

Proposal for the certification framework adopted by the European Commission 

7 March 2023

First meeting of European Commission expert group on carbon removals

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

 

21-22 June 2023
30 August 2023

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

24 October 2023

ENVI Committee vote on the adoption of the ENVI report

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

Negotiating mandate adopted by Member States in the Council

21 November 2023

EU Parliament plenary adopted the ENVI Committee report

2023

Development of methodologies for certification of different carbon removal activities

28 November 2023

Kickstart of trilogues between EU institutions

23 January 2024

Second trilogue between EU institutions

19 February 2024

Third trilogue between EU institutions. A provisional agreement was reached

10 April 2024

The EU Parliament Plenary adopted the final text of the CRCF

15-17 April 2024
4th expert group meeting (online only) which covered a wide range of topics, see agenda here
2024

Expected entry into force of the CRCF

2025

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

2026

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

Further reading

Unofficial Title

CRCF

Year

2022

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023

In a Nutshell

The Directive for the Substantiation of Explicit Environmental Claims (Green Claims Directive) is a legislative proposal that aims to address and reduce greenwashing in consumer-facing commercial practices. It establishes minimum requirements on the substantiation and communication of voluntary environmental claims and labels that are not otherwise banned under the Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition.

To make green claims (including climate-related claims) about the environmental footprint of their products, services, and operations, companies will need to comprehensively demonstrate environmental impact and performance by submitting recognised scientific evidence and the latest technical knowledge. The Directive establishes specific requirements for distinguishing claims on environmental performance from common practice, legal obligations, and from other traders or products.

Environmental claims and labelling schemes will be verified by independent accredited bodies before being put on the market. Member states will nominate a competent national authority to supervise this process, monitor and verify the claims and substantiations on a regular basis. This monitoring will help the Commission evaluate where more specific requirements are needed and implement delegated acts accordingly.

Climate-related claims such as net zero or carbon neutrality claims based on carbon credits use, including carbon removal, fall under the remit of this Directive. To substantiate such claims companies must report offsetting and emissions data separately, specify whether offsetting relates to emissions reductions or carbon removals, and explain accurately the accounting methodology applied. Once approved and when communicating to consumers, climate-related claims must be accompanied by additional information detailing the extent of reliance on offsetting and whether it is based on emissions reductions or removals.

What's on the Horizon?

The Green Claims proposal by the European Commission is currently being discussed within the European Parliament and the Council, with the aim to come to an agreement on their positions as part of the ordinary legislative procedure, before entering interinstitutional negotiations.

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

Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition (ECGT):
  • The Council adopted its negotiating mandate regarding the ECGT Directive on 3 May. The mandate outlines the Council’s position on this directive which would lay the foundation for the Green Claims Directive.
  • The European Parliament on adopted its position on 11 May 2023, setting stricter conditions than the Commission proposal.
  • On 19 September 2023, the Council and the Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the ECGT Directive, banning carbon neutrality claims for products and services based on carbon offsetting, and setting stricter requirements for organisations to make claims based on future environmental performance. Complementing the Directive on Empowering Consumers, the Green Claims Directive will provide further guidance on the conditions to make substantiated environmental claims.
  • On 17 January 2024, the European Parliament adopted the provisional agreement on the ECGT Directive. After the Council adopts the final text, the directive will be published in the Official Journal of the EU, and member states will have 24 months to transpose it into national law.

Green Claims Directive (GCD):

  • The ENVI and IMCO Committee (joint committees responsible) adopted their report on 14 February 2024, which was adopted by the Parliament plenary on 12 March 2024.
  • The Council aims to adopt this file’s general approach on 17 June 2024.
  • 2024- 2025: Following trilogues between EU institutions, the Directive is expected to be formally adopted and transposed by member states.

Deep Dive

Policy Landscape

The Green Claims Directive complements the Empowering Consumers Directive published by the European Commission on 30 March 2022 within the EU. Together, they aim to improve the circularity of the EU’s economy and achieve climate neutrality. They set requirements to substantiate environmental claims made to consumers and other commercial practices.

Apart from the French ministerial decree n°2022-538, the Green Claims Directive is a first of its kind in the specificity with which it regulates environmental claims and addresses climate-neutrality claims. The French decree regulates advertising claims based on emission compensation projects. It has different requirements surrounding emissions reporting, compensation data, and net zero plans.

Aim

The Green Claims Directive proposal addresses the issue of greenwashing, increasingly prevalent in recent years. It seeks to standardise environmental claims and labels to improve transparency and credibility for consumers. The proposal aims to use delegated and implementing acts in the future to address substantiation methodologies for specific product groups and evolving commercial practices.

The preamble of the proposal states that climate-related claims are prone to being unclear and misleading, as they are often based on offsetting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through carbon credits of low environmental integrity and credibility, generated outside the company’s value chain and calculated based on methodologies that vary widely in transparency, accuracy, and consistency. Offsetting can also deter traders from reducing emissions in their own operations and value chains.

However, credible net zero claims have the potential to incentivise and drive the development of safe, just and sustainable carbon removals to transition towards real climate neutrality. Claims based on offsetting must be regulated through a robust and science-based system to prevent greenwashing.

Room for improvement

Unfortunately, the Green Claims Directive as it currently stands does not establish the necessary measures to do so:

  • The Directive does not align with scientific consensus as it allows offsetting through emissions reductions and avoidance to substantiate carbon neutrality claims. The IPCC’s definition of net zero is clear: balancing emissions with physical removals. Accordingly, offsetting projects that avoid emissions, but do not physically remove and store carbon, must be barred from use in substantiating claims about net climate impacts.
  • The proposal rightly requires companies to report GHG emissions separately from offsetting data, to disclose the share of their total emissions that are addressed through offsetting and whether these come from emission reductions or removals. This isn’t enough to monitor whether the claimed climate impacts are real. There is a need for more extensive disclosure on the types of carbon credits companies are purchasing (avoidance, reduction, removals), which emissions they are claiming compensation for, and the methodologies used to ensure integrity and correct accounting.
  • The proposal allows all types of offsetting without any clear criteria for which emissions they can compensate for, nor which climate claims they can substantiate. However, not all carbon storage is equal in terms of capacity, duration or reversal risk. This means that long-lived fossil fuel emissions otherwise impossible to abate can only be balanced by removals with high-durability storage in the geosphere where the carbon came from. Lower-durability removal and storage of carbon into the biosphere must be accelerated for its own sake, to halt and reverse the loss of ecosystems and natural carbon stocks but cannot be eligible to compensate for fossil fuel emissions. Failing to enshrine this non-fungibility principle in EU law would allow companies to continue offsetting their long-lived emissions through shorter-term carbon storage with higher risks of reversal.
  • Although the Directive encourages companies to use offsetting only for residual emissions, it provides no robust definition for what constitutes these residual or ‘hard-to-abate’ emissions. Without a sector-specific and measurable definition, companies can weaken emissions cutting efforts by manipulating the boundary between emissions that must be reduced’ and ‘emissions that physical removals can offset’. The EU will need to establish a transparent process for classifying emissions as difficult-to-decarbonise.
  • The proposal excludes from its scope environmental claims and labels substantiated by rules in the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF). However, the proposal for the CRCF has no rules for claim substantiation. Instead, the Green Claims Directive could establish guardrails for legitimate net zero claims, which could be substantiated through the purchase of high-quality carbon removal credits certified under the CRCF.

Timeline

11 March 2020
20 July 2020
25 November 2020
30 March 2022
22 March 2023
11 May 2023
6 June 2023
19 September 2023
17 January 2024
14 February 2024
12 March 2024
17 June 2024 (TBC)
11 March 2020

The EU Circular Economy Action Plan sets out the plan to support the EU’s transition to a circular economy, including by protecting consumers

20 July 2020

Impact assessment and public consultation on substantiating green claims

25 November 2020
30 March 2022
22 March 2023

European Commission publishes the proposal for Green Claims Directive (GCD)

11 May 2023

European Parliament adopts its position on the ECGT Directive

6 June 2023

Deadline to provide feedback to the Commission on the GCD legislative proposal

19 September 2023

The Council and the Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the ECGT Directive

17 January 2024

The EU Parliament adopted the ECGT Directive

14 February 2024

Joint report of the lead ENVI and IMCO Committees on the GCD adopted

12 March 2024

European Parliament plenary adopted the GCD joint report

17 June 2024 (TBC)

Council to adopt its general approach on GCD

Unofficial Title

Green Claims

Year

2023

Official Document

Last Updated

24/04/2023