The proposal aims at establishing an EU-wide voluntary framework for the certification of carbon removals, the first of its kind. In particular, the voluntary framework on carbon removal certification would require the relevant removal activities to provide for net carbon removal benefits according to a specific formula.
It would aim at ensuring that carbon removals are additional, store carbon long-term, and do not hinder concrete sustainability objectives. The proposal would also lay down rules for the certification of carbon removals by certification bodies appointed by public or private certification schemes recognised by the Commission. It sets out criteria to define high-quality carbon removals and the process to monitor, report and verify the authenticity of these removals. With this certification framework, the aim is to boost innovative carbon removal technologies and sustainable carbon farming solutions, while fighting greenwashing.
What do Member States and MEPs think?
In late November 2023, the European Parliament decided to go beyond the scope of the new EU framework for certifying carbon sinks in farming by providing for the remuneration and trading of negative emission certificates. They have also exceeded the original objectives of the Commission’s proposal to include rules relating to the use of certificates, with potential linkages with other EU legislations (i.e., Corporate GHG inventory reporting, emission trading systems (ETS) and a post-2030 target). In fact, the aim of the Certification Framework for Carbon Removals and Carbon Farming should not be to establish how to use certificates, which should be done through the Green Claims Directive, but to ensure their quality.
On its side, on 17 November, the Council adopted its negotiating mandate for talks with the EU Parliament. The negotiating mandate, which was agreed at Coreper level, covers carbon farming (e.g., restoring forests and soil, and wetland management), carbon storage in long-lasting products (such as wood-based construction), and reductions of emissions from agricultural soils, as long as they result, overall, in an improvement of the soil carbon balance.
Both institutions acknowledge the voluntary nature of certification and the establishment of an EU-wide registry. The Council and the European Parliament also agreed on making it mandatory to have co-benefits linked to carbon credits but did also pledge a premium. They maintained the proposed QU.A.L.ITY criteria and the request to develop tailored certification methodologies for different types of carbon removal and soil emission reduction activities by the Commission (assisted by an expert group).
The first inter institutional trilogue was held on 28 November where the Commission, Council and parliament began the process of trying to reconcile their respective positions. Belgium took over the Presidency of the Council on 1 January 2024 and committed to concluding interinstitutional negotiations on the proposals for the certification of carbon removals during their six month term. However, European Elections will be held in June and so time is running out to finalise legislative files before we enter election mode.