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Creating an alternative carbon removals policy architecture for the EU

The European Union is starting the long process towards establishing the bloc’s post-2030 climate policy framework and Carbon Market Watch wants to make sure that slashing emissions is the absolute priority. This is why we are calling on the European Commission to create a dedicated and separate carbon removals framework that will not interfere with the EU’s emission reduction efforts.

Currently, the EU’s approach is to pursue a net emissions reduction target of 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. In reality, when it comes to reducing actual emissions, the EU is less ambitious than it states. The 2030 target translates to only a 52-54% gross emissions reduction, when excluding the contribution of carbon sequestration in natural sinks. This approach is not only misleading, it also perpetuates the wrongful assumption that emissions and removals are equivalent.

Many policymakers place too much faith in the idea that carbon removals technologies will save the day and are culpable of delaying and avoiding emissions reductions. The science is pretty clear: carbon removals cannot substitute deep, fast and sustained emissions reductions. The deployment of removals is however unavoidable, and will be necessary to help accelerate mitigation, to balance with the final residual emissions and to deal with historic pollution in the atmosphere. 

Carbon Market Watch (CMW), with the support of the Milkywire Transformation Fund, is seeking to develop an alternative policy architecture for the EU that will benefit climate and society.

The solution starts with the EU introducing separate, explicit targets and policies for emissions reductions, carbon sequestration in the land sector and permanent removals in its post-2030 framework. Addressing the three types of climate action separately will maximise the benefits and minimise the potential risks of land sequestration and permanent removals, while prioritising that decarbonisation is at the heart of EU policy.

Starting from scratch: Every good idea starts with a blank page.

Civil society climate coalition

As this approach represents a departure from the status quo, it requires a novel design process. This is why CMW is working, with the support of Milkywire, to build a coalition to co-create a climate policy architecture that enjoys broad support.

Progress: The project starts to take shape as colleagues put their ideas on paper.

The lay of the land: organising actors by their point of view and level of influence.

To identify potential associates, the team started by charting organisations, businesses, academics, companies and policymakers that advocate a position on carbon removals in Europe. This process, undertaken with a few selected external colleagues possessing significant and varied experiences in this field, allowed us to to measure how much the debate on carbon removals is polarised in the EU, to acknowledge what the differences in opinion are, and subsequently where commonalities exist as we strive together with our partners to achieve the greater purpose of preventing climate breakdown. 

Having worked out the state of affairs CMW will now reach out to potential partners via an open letter. Stay tuned to follow the next step of our journey.

Piecing it together: a sub-team identifies the benefits and limits of one side of the polarised debate on carbon removals in Europe.

Outlining the next steps: a sub-team develops action points for the next stage of the proposal.


  • Gavin Mair

    Gavin is a member of the communications team. He formerly supported the work of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, and held responsibility for media output and office management for two MEPs prior to Brexit. He is an experienced campaigner, relishing the challenge of communicating for causes that have a social and environmental impact and is motivated by CMW’s mission of holding businesses and governments to account as they move towards essential environmental ambitions and transitions. When not fighting the good fight Gavin can typically be found enjoying live music or attending to his houseplants.

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