EU lacks coordinated vision for carbon removal

Although the EU is advancing on incentivising and regulating carbon dioxide removal, there is a lack of coordinated vision that could jeopardise progress, according to the Carbon Removal Policy Tracker.

The analysis follows an assessment of carbon removal policies in individual European countries shows that some are leaping ahead while others are taking longer to negotiate hurdles.

The Carbon Removal Policy Tracker, developed by European environmental NGO Carbon Gap, is a new online platform providing a comprehensive overview of all EU policies that directly or indirectly relate to carbon dioxide removal (CDR).

At the time of launch, the Carbon Removal Policy Tracker includes details of 11 EU-wide policies that have been adopted, are under discussion, or have been signalled by EU institutions as forthcoming proposals.

“Our analysis shows an encouraging increase in the inclusion of carbon removal across a landscape of EU policies,” said Andrea Klaric, Policy Director and Head of European Policy Strategy at Carbon Gap.

“However, as the web of these policies becomes increasingly complex and interdependent, what we are missing is a holistic and strategic approach to scaling up safe and effective carbon removal methods in Europe with tailored policy frameworks and economic incentives. A more integrated approach could help the EU assert its leadership in deploying CDR.”

Carbon dioxide removal refers to extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere or the ocean, and then safely storing it, for example in geological formations, the built environment, and biological carbon stocks (eg forests, soils).

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), large-scale deployment of carbon dioxide removal across a wide range of methods is necessary to limit peak warming to the internationally agreed threshold of 1.5°C, alongside deep, rapid emission cuts.

The Policy Tracker shows carbon removal cropping up across the EU policy spectrum, with policies becoming increasingly interconnected. For example, the Carbon Removal Certification Framework, and a constellation of legislation to stamp out greenwashing and govern what “claims” companies can make about their green credentials, complement each other.

The Nature Restoration and Soil Health Laws aim to combat the loss of functioning ecosystems, which will require funding models for preserving and restoring natural carbon stocks, some of which will undoubtedly rely on the EU’s Carbon Removal Certification Framework to measure how much carbon is removed in the process.

“Europe needs every tool at its disposal to achieve its climate goals and demonstrate global leadership – that means both slashing emissions and reabsorbing carbon wherever it is possible, from soils to forests to the built environment,” said Eli Mitchell-Larson, chief science and advocacy officer and co-founder of Carbon Gap.

“Ambitious European climate leadership means taking responsibility to scale and down-cost innovative and critical climate solutions, including novel carbon removal methods and applying regulatory muscle to drive high-quality climate action globally.”

The new platform also assesses the degree to which CDR is incorporated into policies in individual European countries, taking a closer look at five European countries – Denmark, UK, Switzerland, Germany and France at the time of the launch.

It reveals that Denmark is poised to become a leader on both carbon capture and storage (CCS) and CDR, focusing on climate solutions which lock up carbon dioxide underground.

Denmark’s strong emissions reduction target would require at least 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to be removed from the atmosphere per year by 2050.

Denmark funds research and demonstration projects on carbon capture and injection of carbon dioxide into geological reservoirs. It offers funding and subsidies for a range of methods, including afforestation, biochar, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS).

Denmark aims to become a carbon storage hub, offering its significant geological storage capacity in depleted oil fields in the North Sea to other European countries.