In the next years, Europe will strive to accelerate the removal of carbon dioxide as part of the EU’s goal of becoming carbon neutral. The aim is to balance the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and removal of carbon dioxide in the land use sector by 2035, and by 2050 in the whole economy.

In December 2021, the European Commission published a communication on sustainable carbon cycles that lays down the actions that the EU will take in the near future to promote carbon removal in the EU. The key goals over the next years are to accelerate carbon farming in agriculture and forestry, develop a value chain of industrial carbon removal, and develop a certification system for carbon removal.

At the end of January 2022, the Commission organised a conference on sustainable carbon cycles in which experts and stakeholder representatives discussed the needs and challenges related to the promotion of carbon removal. There was a general consensus on the importance of accelerating carbon removal, but opinions varied on the methods.

The development of an EU certification system was considered important for creating common and reliable standards for measuring carbon removal, proving additionality, and controlling permanence risks. The current certification standards were considered diverse and unreliable, and the experience gained from them should be fully used in the development work for an EU system. The permanence risk concerns particularly carbon removal in the land use sector where its applicability to compensating fossil emissions was questioned.

Both public and private operators could buy EU certificates for different purposes. They could be used for public aid, EU’s emissions trading, and voluntary emissions compensation.

Based on the communication and conference, it seems that the funding of carbon removal will rest strongly on voluntary markets in the near future. Many EU programmes and funds offer support for developing carbon removal methods, but there is a lack of actual incentives to promote their implementation. Carbon sequestration will be integrated into the EU’s climate policy only as of 2030. The developed certification system is the first step towards it.

In order for the voluntary markets to improve carbon removal sustainably, the Commission should provide instructions for the voluntary and sustainable use of the certificates and the statements related to them in addition to the reliable certification system. Businesses need the instructions in order to avoid double counting. A reliable statement on carbon neutrality is not based on carbon removal that the member country is also using for its commitment. Under Ville Niinistö’s direction, the European Parliament has proposed that the member countries should not count carbon removal towards their own targets in the land use sector if they have authorised it for voluntary compensation. The Commission is also devising instructions for green market statements that may also contain instructions for the voluntary use of the EU’s carbon removal certificates. Finland could be involved in these processes as an active pioneer.


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