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The EU Carbon Removal Certification fiasco

6 mars 2024

Written by: Martin Pigeon

The EU Carbon Removal Certification fiasco

Trilogue negotiations concluded, 20 February 2024, with a provisional deal on the EU Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF). At this late stage, the (as-yet unpublished) draft fails to address environmental and climate concerns adequately, while maintaining some of the earlier drafts’ most harmful elements. But wilful disregard of evidence should not be accepted; NGOs are now calling on negotiators to go back to the drawing board rather than encouraging investment in false solutions. 

Major issues around offsetting and environmental damage from carbon removal activities are either poorly addressed or not addressed at all, and urgent decisions have been kicked into the long grass. Offsetting is an absolute climate red line that jeopardises the goal to reduce fossil emissions as fast as possible, and should never have been included.  

Offsetting is included, however – despite the mounting evidence that voluntary carbon offsetting schemes are fraudulent (they prevent far fewer emissions than promised, if any) and that several have driven human rights violations. Offsetting adds monetary incentive to overinflate climate benefits, and to double-count credits (FW 290).  

Europe’s over-logged forests are losing the capacity to sequester carbon, and the land use sectors of more and more Member States are shifting from carbon sinks to net carbon emitters. This CRCF deal nevertheless attempts to create a market for Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), a technology that has not achieved negative emissions over the lifecycle of the biomass anywhere and will add to the logging pressure, as the draft regulation fails to include sufficient safeguards for forests. Scientists have repeatedly warned of the need for strict environmental guardrails for BECCS, in particular that “science does not support launching into the conversion of existing large-scale forest biomass power stations to BECCS”.  

These are not the CRCF’s only shortcomings. The draft confuses atmospheric and biogenic carbon, when these should be kept distinct, and efforts should be made to remedy, rather than add to, past land-use greenhouse gas emissions. It includes temporary storage in long-lasting products and carbon farming, which provide only very limited and debatable climate benefits while paving the way for greenwashing.  

As Carbon Market Watch points out, tricky issues such as liability, or marine environment, have been postponed or remain unclear.  

The few people in charge of this file at the European Commission will be lobbied mercilessly by the offsets industry: tasked with developing technology-specific accounting methodologies, their power to damage-control, or to worsen this regulation is immense. 

As is, CRCF diverts efforts from more valid endeavours, such as restoration of nature and forests, and achieves only a multiplication of unearned ‘green’ marketing opportunities (FW 283). In a climate and biodiversity crisis, dispensing so much time and energy on a proposal that aggravates pressures on forests and distracts from real climate solutions is incomprehensible. This draft should be rejected. If it is not, perhaps as an admission, negotiators have already agreed to review it in 2026.

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