For agricultural and forested land, the aims of the European Commission’s proposed voluntary EU Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF) include:
- Increasing carbon removals by establishing EU criteria and methods to approve land use activities that lead to carbon sequestration, thereby generating new funding.
- Achieving the new targets set by the Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation.
The proposal’s scope goes beyond land-based activities and includes scant details about how best to integrate the land use sector. It does not adequately address the differences between technological and land-based carbon sequestration. For example, it introduces the concept of “carbon farming” as a category of land-based climate mitigation activity, but it does not define it beyond saying it could be a “new business model” linked to public or private payments to farmers and foresters.
As currently framed, the CRCF could incentivise practices that fail to contribute to either biodiversity or climate targets by relying on well-known but flawed methodologies used in voluntary carbon markets. Many carbon offset methodologies allow activities that actually harm the environment, without reducing emissions. Forestry and agricultural practices, such as close-to-nature forestry, agroecology and organic agriculture, that meaningfully contribute to multiple environmental, climate and social objectives are not the focus of carbon market activities. Such activities require stronger environmental and social criteria than are seen in most carbon offset methodologies.
To be successful, the CRCF needs to have clear, robust and holistic environmental and social criteria for evaluating land-based activities so as to ensure it supports foresters and farmers to transition to and/or continue practices that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, increase biodiversity, and make forests and land more resilient to the effects of the climate crisis.
This briefing advances seven recommendations for how to improve the proposed CRCF so that it does not greenwash existing harmful land use, and instead promotes activities that mitigate the climate crisis whilst helping forests and agricultural lands adapt to it. To achieve this, the CRCF must turn away from offsetting.