Carbon is the atom of life, of our societies and economies. It is part of our DNA, the food we eat, the products we use every day, the fuels that power our homes, vehicles and factories, the materials we use to build our cities. Carbon continuously flows between the atmosphere, the ocean, the vegetation and the Earth’s crust, in a natural but fragile balance that some activities have jeopardised: emissions from fossil fuel combustion, industrial processes and land use change are cumulating in the oceans and are dramatically increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, fuelling the climate and biodiversity crises.
Carbon removals from forests, agricultural practices or technological solutions will play a growing role in achieving climate neutrality by 2050, and will become the main focus of action thereafter, when negative emissions will be needed to actively reduce concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and stabilise the climate.
Sustainable carbon cycles
In December 2021, the Commission adopted the “Sustainable Carbon Cycles” Communication, which sets out an action plan on how to develop sustainable solutions to increase carbon removals.
The Communication highlights several key challenges and proposes short- to medium-term actions to tackle them.
Carbon Farming: by 2028 every land manager should have access to verified emission and removal data, and carbon farming should support the achievement of the proposed 2030 net removal target of 310 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (Mt CO2eq) in the land sector, as presented in July's package on delivering the European Green Deal.
Industrial Sustainable Carbon: by 2028, any ton of CO2 captured, transported, used and stored by industries has to be reported and accounted from its origin; by 2030, at least 20% of the carbon used in products has to come from sustainable non-fossil sources; and by 2030, 5 million tonnes of CO2 has to be annually removed from the atmosphere and permanently stored through technological solutions.
A regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals
Now and in the future, we need to scale up carbon removals, be it in the land sector or in industry. Improving the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon removals is the first fundamental step to enable robust markets and regulatory uses of carbon certificates. Carbon farming and industrial projects that invest in carbon removals today should have a prospect of a future robust accounting and certification framework that ensures comparability and recognition of the action started already on the ground.
To this end, the Commission has proposed a regulatory EU framework for the certification of carbon removals. The certification framework will help ensure the transparent identification of carbon farming and industrial solutions that unambiguously remove carbon from the atmosphere.
The Commission’s work on the certification framework is supported by the Expert Group on Carbon Removals.