A two-fold blow to climate and environment was endorsed on 24 October 2023, when the European Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) voted on the Commission proposal for a voluntary Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF). They chose not to scrap carbon offsetting despite a decade of media coverage showing it often causes more harm than good, and they agreed to support Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) – an uncertain technology that offers a lifeline to damaging biomass business.
Prioritising voluntary certification over mandatory requirements has failed time and again (FW 283), so it is disheartening seeing ENVI vote to takes us further down the road of futility.
Carbon offsetting allowed: ENVI refused to ban carbon offsetting for land-use projects, despite the increasing evidence about the worthlessness of carbon offsetting. Experience shows that monetising carbon offsets simply adds financial incentive for exaggeration and inflation of climate benefits. Carbon projects are also linked to land and human rights conflicts and violations (FW 282).
ENVI further ignores a long-held international and EU position intended to prevent two actors (such as an oil company and a country) from claiming the same emissions reduction – known as double-counting. The CRCF proposal would allow both the company using a land-use credit to claim it is meeting its climate goals, and the country where the activity takes place. Such confusions give cover for inaction and delay.
Calyx Global, a rating agency for carbon market credits, has cautioned: “There is no need to hide behind the notion that what is allowable under current methodologies is what should be done. Continuing business-as-usual does not help the voluntary carbon market or the planet.”
BECCS allowed: The precautionary principle (Article 191-2 TFEU) must be applied to unproven technologies whose deployment at scale would cause hefty damage to people and nature – especially when, as with BECCS, there is not a single project able to achieve negative emissions at scale. Indeed, BECCS only shifts carbon from the biological cycle to the geological cycle.
Nevertheless, ENVI endorsed the creation of voluntary carbon removals credits for BECCS, arguing that this will enable the ‘negative emissions’ direly needed for the EU to reach its net zero targets.
This ignores the absurd impacts of attempting to deploy BECCS plants at the scale necessary to reach EU net zero targets (“one new plant every three to four days”, according to an industry executive), and the current role of woody biomass production in driving the excessive logging that, since 2012, has contributed to the reduction of the EU’s largest land carbon sink, its forests.
In addition to these problems, ENVI maintained another contradiction. All ‘carbon farming’ activities, including forest-related activities, must have a positive impact on sustainability indicators including biodiversity - inexplicably, this does not apply to BECCS, which is classified as an ‘industrial removal’.
A ‘carbon removal’ scheme that endorses offsetting and increased bioenergy production will fail.
Category: Forest Watch