Carbon Gap welcomes the European Commission’s forthcoming proposal to launch a Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF) for Europe, which could help catalyse global scaling of high-quality carbon removals. This White Paper sets out a vision for how such a certification framework should be formed.
Alongside emission reductions and adaptation to climate change, carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is a critical third pillar of climate action. CDR includes a wide array of methods, from incorporating carbon into our built environment and long-lived products, to reimagining land management to optimise for carbon absorption, to scaling up entirely new industries that scrub CO2 directly from the air or ocean through engineered means.
But, without a means to carefully measure, validate and certify carbon removal, we cannot ensure that these potent climate solutions will be effective or positively impactful. Just as urgently as we need to expedite CDR efforts, so too do we need to develop regulatory frameworks that can keep these efforts in check, authenticating removals and promoting ecosystem and societal co-benefits.
This White Paper sets out a vision for how such a certification framework should be formed. It is structured in four parts, with sections 1 and 2 covering key principles, inevitable challenges, and an implementation model. Sections 3 and 4 explore appropriate governance systems and use cases for certification.
Like the climate crisis itself, carbon removal knows no national boundaries, and many of the insights here are therefore intended to be universal to all CDR certification frameworks. However, we see a unique opportunity for the European Union to continue its tradition of regulatory leadership, launching an exemplary CDR certification mechanism. Accordingly, Carbon Gap has designed its recommendations with the EU in mind, but with the conviction that these ideas can be broadly applied. In this spirit, our five key recommendations are summarised below.
Carbon removal certification frameworks should:
1) Empower an agency to transparently administer the system, maintaining an open-access database of certified projects and taking a science-led, unconflicted governance approach.
2) Establish guidelines, principles and baseline standards that pave the way for the certification of all safe and effective removal methods.
3) Implement a multi-tier system for “onboarding” methodologies based on differentiated certainty levels that a carbon benefit has been delivered.
4) Separate fundamentally different CDR methods to resolve the “carbon removal equivalence dilemma” (i.e. by distinguishing low-durability from high-durability methods).
5) Foster the full spectrum of possible use cases of carbon removal certification, of which compensation-based offsetting is only one.
The EU has a unique opportunity to help the world imagine what credible CDR looks like. If the CRCF is built and governed in a principled, evidence-based way then its impact will ripple through public and private sectors, not only in the EU but further afield. A robust regulatory framework will provide a much-needed backbone for the rapidly growing CDR world, ensuring this industry scales in an integral way. At a time when escalating global warming is pushing Earth’s systems to the limit, high-quality carbon removal methods must get the financial and regulatory support they need. That starts with the establishment of effective certification.