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How to make carbon removals work for climate action in the EU

Carbon dioxide removals (CDR), also known as negative emissions or carbon removals, refers to scrubbing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and storing them permanently. The science is clear that we will need to remove carbon from the atmosphere this century in order to keep global heating below 1.5°C. However, removals must be supplementary to and not a substitute for emission reductions, while differentiating between real and false removal solutions remains crucial. For the time being, the deployment of CDR will be inherently limited due to technological constraints, energy and land requirements, and the potential negative effects of CDR methods. But even if the scaling up of high quality CDR methods was possible today, overreliance on CDR should be avoided as it could cause polluters to delay or postpone real emissions reductions (so-called mitigation deterrence).

In this context, the European Commission’s proposal for the creation of a certification system for carbon removals in the EU should, in principle, have been a necessary first step in determining what actually constitutes valid carbon dioxide removals and in understanding the related environmental and social impacts, thus helping ensure the sustainable deployment of these methods in Europe. At the same time, an EU certification framework for removals could potentially harmonise rules among EU member states in this field while serving as a leading example for removals policy in other jurisdictions and at the international level (for example, under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement).

Regrettably, the European Commission’s proposed Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF) falls short of this potential. It needs major changes if this framework is to become an effective tool for climate action. This document sets out Carbon Market Watch’s series of recommendations and suggestions for the original text.

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