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 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