EU agrees world's first carbon removal certification scheme

Today's landmark agreement specifically includes marine carbon removal, opening the possibility for seaweed farmers and other aquaculture activities to be eligible for voluntary certification.
Restoration of seagrass meadows is one of the activities eligible for carbon removal certification under the EU's newly-agreed framework.

Restoration of seagrass meadows is one of the activities eligible for carbon removal certification under the EU's newly-agreed framework.

Photo: Adobe Stock.

The world's first carbon removal certification scheme has received the green light, after the European Union reached a provisional agreement on the framework today, 20 February 2024.

The landmark Carbon Removal Certification Framework, agreed upon by the European Council and the European Parliament, aims to provide "clear and reliable rules at EU level to quantify, monitor and verify carbon removals".

This contributes to the EU’s goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, by encouraging the development of carbon removal and soil emission reduction activities across the bloc - including through marine "carbon farming" and restoration activities.

In addition, the EU "aims to create new income opportunities for industries deploying carbon removal technologies or developing long-lasting carbon storage products, and for land managers engaging in innovative carbon farming practices."

Four types of carbon removal activities to be officially certified

The new framework categorizes carbon removal and soil emission reduction activities into four distinct types:

  • permanent carbon removal (storing atmospheric or biogenic carbon for several centuries)

  • temporary carbon storage in long-lasting products (at least 35 years duration)

  • temporary carbon storage from carbon farming (e.g. restoring forests and soil, wetland management, seagrass meadows)

  • soil emission reduction from carbon farming

The EU notes that carbon farming activities must continue for at least five years to be certified, and must not lead to land being acquired for speculative purposes, negatively affecting rural communities.

To be eligible, carbon farming activities must also "generate at least a biodiversity co-benefit", the legislators said.

The agreement excludes activities that do not directly contribute to carbon removal or soil emission reductions, such as avoided deforestation and renewable energy projects.

Marine carbon removal is included in the new framework

Significantly for the aquaculture and seaweed sectors, carbon removal in marine environments is specifically highlighted in the list of eligible sectors and activities for certification.

"The co-legislators also agreed [...] to explicitly clarify that activities and operators in the marine environments are included in the scope of the regulation," the EU said in a press release this morning.

This inclusion acknowledges the role marine ecosystems play in carbon sequestration, such as management of seagrass meadows and other aquatic carbon farming practices.

How will carbon removal projects be certified?

Certification will be voluntary, and entail a two-step certification process, the EU says.

The framework will use four main criteria for certifying carbon removal activities: quantification, additionality, long-term storage, and sustainability.

To support "harmonized and efficient implementation", the European Commission intends to develop certification methodologies tailored to different types of carbon removal activities.

The agreement also includes an EU-wide public registry on carbon removal certification to be created no later than four years after the framework begins operation, to support transparency and information-sharing across the bloc.

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