November 09, 2022

Stakeholder Conference: Making the case for European leadership in carbon removal.

Summary of our event that took place on 26 October.

Key Takeaways

A series of high-level recommendations on CDR emerged during the event, including:

  • The EU and its Member States need to develop policies for the scaling of carbon dioxide removals in order to ensure that gigaton scales of removals, necessary to meet the Paris Agreement goals, can and will be reached.
  • The upcoming carbon removal certification framework proposal should: ensure real climate benefit of certified removals; create trust from a wide variety of stakeholders including policymakers, removal providers, and purchasers; be dynamic by design – flexible and capable of change as CDR methods and methodologies evolve; transparently provide necessary data of certified carbon removal activities; and define quality criteria and baselines for aspects such as additionality, storage durability, sustainability, and greenhouse gas leakage.
  • Appropriate funding mechanisms of relevant sizes need to be developed or adapted to provide required funding and support for carbon removal market building.
  • The EU needs to recognize its opportunity to become a leader on carbon removals, while also increasing efforts on carbon removals to remain competitive, by continuously advancing and mainstreaming required carbon removal policy.

Held on 26 October 2022, the event gathered over a hundred EU and national policymakers, industry, academia, and civil society representatives to exchange views on how to ensure the development of a robust European carbon dioxide removal (‘CDR’) policy framework that enables these innovative technologies to scale up at the required pace. In his welcoming remarks, CEO Glenn Morley introduced the audience to Carbon Gap’s goal to address policy, knowledge and ambition gaps to unlock the potential of carbon removals.

In his keynote speech on CDR 101: What is carbon removal and why it matters, Dr. Geden stressed the importance of CDR for reaching net-zero emission targets: “If you have a net-zero target, you have already said yes to carbon dioxide removals”. Geden highlighted the need to not only remove carbon, but also store removed carbon durably, and moreover asked to which degree residual emissions are considered unavoidable. He furthermore stated that net zero CO2 needs to be achieved before net zero greenhouse gases can be achieved, as negative CO2 emissions will need to balance residual greenhouse gas emissions. This would mean that net negative CO2 emissions need to be achieved well before 2050 in order to reach overall climate neutrality in 2050. Geden furthermore summed up research needs and knowledge gaps at the science – policy interface.

The first panel discussion, led by master of ceremony and climate journalist Anna Gumbau, focused on the European Commission’s initiative for a regulatory framework on the certification of carbon removals expected on 30 November. The panel exchanged views on the potential certification can play in advancing high-quality carbon removals, with Christian Holzleitner, Head of Unit for Land Economy and Carbon Removals at the European Commission’s DG CLIMA, stating: “We want to create trust in carbon removals, and enable policymakers to better understand what carbon removal is. We want to quantify carbon removals: how much is stored, for how long, and how sustainably?”.The upcoming proposal shall define criteria for carbon removal, as well as set a baseline in order to attribute responsibility and prevent greenwashing.

Panellists agreed that the certification framework has the potential to give the EU regulatory leadership on carbon removals while advancing EU’s climate goals for climate neutrality and net negative emissions. Eli Mitchell-Larson, Chief Science and Advocacy Officer and Co-Founder at Carbon Gap, remarked: “We have an opportunity to scale up carbon removals. It should be simple: If you emit carbon dioxide, you are responsible for removing it.” Panel participants furthermore highlighted the need for the certification framework to be as simple as possible while providing as much flexibility as possible to consider and include new carbon removal methods and changes in methodologies. This was underlined by Eve Tamme, Founder and Managing Director at Climate Principles, saying: “Carbon removal certification needs to build on innovation, be transparent and be flexible to consider the constantly evolving science and policy in this area.” Panellists agreed that certification systems should be dynamic by design, and that additionality of carbon removals is central to certification and financing of carbon removals, and called on the co-legislators to ensure durable, effective and sustainable carbon removals via the certification.

The On the ground: Carbon removals in action section followed, with 6 CDR practitioners showcasing their CDR methods and making carbon removal real for participants. With videos from CarboCulture, Captura, DemoUpCarma led by ETH Zurich, the Greifswald Mire Center, Mission Zero and, the audience was presented with a range of CDR methods at various levels of maturity, such as biochar, direct ocean capture, and soil carbon enhancement.

In the second panel, led by Mark Preston Aragonès of Bellona, the discussion’s focus lay on scaling up carbon removal for EU leadership. Participants highlighted the difference in demand and supply, which needs to be closed in order to establish CDR at scale. Stéphane Ouaki, Head of Department at the European Innovation Council, stated “Our goal is to decrease risk and make projects bankable”. Panellists agreed that significantly larger investments and funding, both from private and public sources, are required in order to drive carbon removal deployment and provide negative emissions at gigaton scale. Such a scale is necessary to limit global warming in agreement with the Paris Agreement goals, according to the IPCC. In discussion with the audience, the importance of differentiation between carbon removals, and carbon capture and utilisation, as well as carbon capture and storage (of carbon from fossil sources) was underlined.

Talking about hurdles and opportunities, Lídia Pereira, Member of the European Parliament and COP27 Rapporteur, explained: “Unblocking obstacles limiting the scaling of carbon dioxide removals needs to be prioritised, in order for Europe to lead on this issue and stay competitive.” Overcoming the many obstacles for carbon removals includes, among others, the aspect that “buyers require trustworthy information, especially regarding monitoring, reporting and verification, to inform their purchase decisions”, as Philip Moss, Director of Carbon Removal Markets, South Pole, stated. Panellists agreed that certification can play a central role in allowing carbon removals to scale.