July 20, 2024

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The EU has fired the starting gun for the race to deploy carbon dioxide removals in Europe

Negative Emissions Platform Carbon Removal Summit 2023

Europe’s net-zero goal demands rapid scaling of diverse carbon removal methods. Unwarranted policy restrictions on removal technologies may hinder success.

The European Union (EU) is gearing up to make a significant impact on the global fight against climate change through the release of its 2040 Climate Targets and Industrial Carbon Management Strategy. As outlined by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the urgency to remove up to 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually by 2050 is paramount. Against this backdrop, the forthcoming EU initiatives are timely and crucial in the pursuit of climate neutrality by 2050.

The EU’s 2040 Climate Targets, set to be unveiled on February 6, aim for a 90% net-emission reduction. The focus remains on emission cuts, with a key component involving the incorporation of 75 MtCO2 of ‘industrial’ carbon removals. This step is crucial for addressing residual and historical emissions and moving closer to net zero.

However, not all carbon removal methods are accounted for.

All permanent carbon removal activities should contribute to the EU’s climate goals without favouring specific technologies. The EU is urged to avoid relying solely on methods like Direct Air Capture Systems or Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage, as this may fall short of the IPCC-mandated goal. The call is for a diverse portfolio of solutions meeting strong quality criteria to ensure the permanence of carbon dioxide removal.

Moreover, setting a target for permanent carbon removals in the EU 2040 Climate Targets is proposed to send a strong signal that the region is not shirking its responsibility in addressing the climate crisis. Focusing on a limited number of technologies may hinder deployment and overlook contributions from various countries based on their unique characteristics, such as geology, renewable energy availability, land use, and coastline.

Simultaneously, the release of the Industrial Carbon Management Strategy on February 6 is anticipated to provide a roadmap for deploying carbon dioxide removal methods to offset challenging greenhouse gas emissions from heavy industry and residual fossil fuel use. The strategy explores integrating carbon removals into emissions trading, signaling a commitment to reducing the costs of carbon removal activities.

Nevertheless, uncertainties persist regarding the overall climate architecture, specifically in relation to the 2040 Climate Targets. The absence of detailed information on how the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF) will be used in the future adds to sector challenges. Additionally, there is little distinction between carbon dioxide removals (CDR) and carbon capture and storage (CCS) which is also likely to cause confusion.

The CRCF is emphasized as a key building block for integrating CDR into European climate policy. A technology-open approach is deemed imperative, with inclusive, and science-backed definitions for carbon removals and permanent storage. Over 350 companies, including Microsoft, Shopify, and the X-Prize, have advocated for tech openness in the CRCF, and progress is anticipated during the final Trilogue on February 19.

The EU is poised for a historic step in global climate action, unveiling 2040 Climate Targets and an Industrial Carbon Management Strategy. Emphasis on diverse carbon removal methods is crucial, but uncertainties remain.

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