On March 7th, the European Commission hosted its first expert group meeting on the European Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF) – the first proposed EU framework that will aim to introduce overarching rules for measuring, validating and certifying carbon removals. A recording of the meeting can be watched here.
The meeting was highlighted with panel discussions on critical topics like carbon storage and carbon farming and overall started the work on developing the body of the framework. That was also the first meeting of the European Commission dedicated exclusively to carbon dioxide removal (CDR).
Some key takeaways are attendees agreeing on the rules of procedure and getting the overview of plans for 2023. There were questions raised about the need of delivering different methodologies on each type of carbon removal, the work on which is expected to happen once the Carbon Removal Certification Framework has been agreed upon.
Christian Holzleitner, Head of Unit for Land Economy and Carbon Removals at the European Commission opened the discussions by highlighting the importance of carbon removal technologies for reaching the EU’s emissions target. As per recent research, all current CDR comes from conventional land management practices like reforestation and aforestation and only a tiny fraction comes from novel CDR methods like capturing carbon, storing it underground or in products, ocean carbon removal, enhanced weathering, etc.
He explained that the first half of the 21 century will be dominated by emissions reduction activities and the second half will be focused on CDR. However, scenarios that limit global warming to 2 degrees require deep decarbonization while simultaneously a large-scale deployment of CDR methodologies, therefore emissions reductions like expanding renewables and CDR large-scale deployment will likely move hand-in-hand.
According to Mr. Holzleitner, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is necessary, and unavoidable emissions and carbon removals should be zeroed out at the latest by 2050. After that is achieved, the world should move ahead towards achieving negative emissions. He also added that CDR can achieve its goal after the second half of the century only if we see substantial new deployment of these methodologies in the next 10 years.
The goal of the CRCF is to integrate CDR into the climate policy paradigm. The door has been opened now to advance CDR in the union and address the many questions from individuals, experts and expert groups on governing carbon removals.
Mr. Holzleitner also expressed that the EU is currently not on a trajectory to deliver the required CDR quantities that are in line with limiting global warming.
There were also discussions during the group meeting focused on whether biochar as currently one of the prevalent carbon removal methods in the voluntary CDR market should be considered in the long-term storage category or become a part of carbon farming practices for carbon removal. It was highlighted that periods of carbon storage when biochar practices are used vary, and currently they require monitoring and more scientific data to provide exactly the durability potential of this method.
It was pointed out during the panel discussion on permanent storage that some of the technologies that use CO2 in products are already mature, so there are no technological barriers. The only thing needed to scale the industry is creating market conditions for investors to invest in them.
Overall, the first group meeting on CRCF presented interesting viewpoints on the challenges faced by the novel CDR industry and what needs to happen to overcome current deployment barriers.
So far debates on carbon removal have been general and rarely specific, including March 7th first expert group meeting on CRCF. More serious discussions from now on are needed to fit the Carbon Removal Certification Framework for purpose and in the meantime scaling renewables in the EU remains critically important.