Today, the European Commission published its proposal for a regulation on carbon removals – activities and products that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Fern believes it is not just ineffective but harmful.
A central part of regulation is to establish a voluntary EU framework with minimum standards for recognizing the work of certifiers - companies that certify carbon removals.
In the forestry world, there has been significant controversy over certification’s effectiveness in preventing bad forestry or promoting degradation-free products. In the carbon market space, the main certifiers are carbon offset providers, who arguably have a worse track record. This proposal risks giving credence to offsetting and those that certify it, which is a key tool for fossil fuel companies to delay mitigation.
In addition, it is ambivalent to what can be certified, leaving activities to be detailed in expert groups where certifiers could promote their existing approaches.
The Commission has suggested looking at actions to restore lands while simultaneously pushing risky technical solutions, like Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), that may do the opposite of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The framework could also certify products, such as paper which has a heavy environmental footprint, leaving it an open question whether this framework will actually lead to more carbon dioxide being removed from the atmosphere.
Kelsey Perlman, Forest and Climate Campaigner at Fern, said: “This proposal leaves us guessing what a carbon removal is: Is it burning trees or keeping them standing? Is it more consumption of wood products or less? In its current form this law harms more than it helps, paving the way for an increase in carbon emissions, not a removal of carbon dioxide.
Currently, restoring forests is the only real way of safely removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We call on the European Parliament and the Council to bring this proposal into the real world and incentivise more resilient forestry practices and reverse the recent dramatic decline in carbon absorption from forests,” ended Perlman.
The publication can be found here.
The EU land use sink has been decreasing in recent years.
Carbon offsetting has largely served as a technique to delay reducing emissions, with oil giants citing future reliance on offsetting credits in their unreliable claims. The voluntary offset market is composed of companies providing different levels of standards for measuring carbon removal activities. They do not contribute to meeting EU climate targets.
The pulp and paper sector was responsible for 2% of industrial emissions in 2021 according to IEA, equivalent to the aviation sector.