March 06, 2023
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The low-carbon label

A French approach to improving the voluntary market for emissions reductions and removals

Aspects of France’s low-carbon labelling system, its official certification scheme for emissions reductions and carbon removal, offers some design advantages and learnings that may serve to build EU’s approach to certifying carbon removal (CRCF), as well as for other EU countries when creating, or revising, their own schemes. In this context, our new policy brief looks at how the labelling system works, what impact it has had since launch in 2018 and which features could serve as a model for developing certification schemes in the EU and other countries. 

The low-carbon label (label bas carbone in French) is France’s official certification scheme for greenhouse gas reduction or sequestration projects carried out on its territory. It provides clear rules and transparency to the national voluntary carbon market by introducing a framework for monitoring, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions reductions or carbon removals to encourage such projects. The label is based on emissions reductions or carbon removal methodologies which are approved by the French Ecological Transition Ministry. 

Since the launch of the low-carbon label in 2018, more than 40 organisations have become partners and have committed over €2.5 million in funding. As of January 2023, a total of 376 projects have been awarded the label. These projects are expected to result in 1 431 819 tCO2e of emissions reductions, equivalent to the carbon dioxide absorbed by approximately 143 million trees in one year. In 2021, the share of LCL certified credits in France’s offsetting market is estimated at 3% in volumes and 19% in value. 

Key takeaways  

While France is not the first EU country to provide rules for a voluntary carbon market, the design advantages of its low-carbon labelling system may serve as a model for other EU countries, particularly by:  

  1. Involving all sectors outside the regulated carbon markets and being open to all methods;
  2. Including both additionality and co-benefits as essential criteria for obtaining a label;
  3. Combatting greenwashing with clear guidelines for external communication on the LCL certified projects;
  4. Avoiding the risk of double-counting by tracking the emissions reductions generated by the labelled project on an official registry.

The upshot 

As the EU embarks on developing its Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF), two points are particularly important for a carbon removal certification scheme:  

  • Emissions reductions and carbon removal are both vital to achieving our climate goals, but they are intrinsically different and have different climate outcomes. As such, they should be certified in separate streams.
  • Certification schemes should establish a clear and transparent mechanism to track how credits are retired and what they were used to compensate for. Indeed, carbon removal credits should not be used to compensate for anything other than historical emissions and hard-to-abate emissions.