In this position paper, we make recommendations for the EU’s carbon removals certification framework. The recommendations are informed directly by some of the EU’s top innovative SMEs specialised in software and hardware-based decarbonisation technologies for enhanced measurement and more effective natural and industrial carbon removals.
This paper is a collaboration between Cleantech for Europe and Beamline Accelerator, a Cleantech for Europe affiliate. Cleantech for Europe represents the vibrant ecosystem of EU cleantech innovators and investors who are developing technologies and business models to take the EU to net zero. Beamline Accelerator is Central Eastern Europe’s uniquely positioned early-stage startup companies accelerator, investing in impactful hardware and software companies.
Findings are based exclusively on the voices of startups actively working with carbon removal solutions and inform recommendations to help the EU develop an innovation-friendly carbon removals framework to help cleantech companies lead the race to net zero. Although efforts to eliminate the release of new production-related greenhouse gases are of course important in reaching that goal, we now know that this is not enough - we also must physically remove already emitted carbon from the atmosphere.
Carbon can be actively removed from the atmosphere naturally. Some of the main methods include carbon farming, blue carbon economy, reforestation and afforestation. It can also be indirectly removed by using more biobased products (bioeconomy) and using already existing products more efficiently (e.g. energy efficiency of buildings). When it comes to industrial removals, there are two processes which remove carbon from the air. The first is called carbon capture and storage (CCS). In this process, CO2 is captured at its source and stored permanently underground. The second removal process is called carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), where the carbon is recycled for further usage. Both of these need rapid innovation since right now the removal capacity is lacking. Achieving the EU climate-neutrality objective would require the capture of between 300Mt and 500 Mt of carbon dioxide from those sources by 2050.
Innovative SMEs based in the EU are developing a range of solutions to directly or indirectly impact decarbonisation via carbon removals.
These include examples like:
The companies underlined that establishing a robust and credible certification system for carbon removals is the first essential stepping stone towards achieving a net contribution from carbon removals in line with the EU climate-neutrality objective.
Carbon removal processes only work when approached holistically. Since industrial carbon removal always requires nature's input in the form of energy, we should be interested in achieving the maximum natural carbon removal capacity. Natural carbon removal is supported by thriving natural ecosystems. When corals are being fed healthy water, vitamins and minerals, their power to deposit CO2 is at times higher. The same goes for forests, fields and other bioresources. So a robust certification and credit system should also reward solutions that support viable ecosystems that optimise natural removal. When these ecosystems are not supported, natural removal doesn’t reach the efficiency it could reach in healthy ecosystems and is in danger of getting less attention than industrial removal systems. Since industrial removal requires long investment lead times and regulatory structures to reach the required scale, natural solutions supported by robust MRV, assurance of durability and management of reversals should be developed in parallel.
All in all, with such massive scale structural changes as the European-level carbon removal system will bring, there is a need for using carbon certifications in parallel with a similar certification system tracking projects' influence on natural ecosystems. Otherwise, carbon removals could start harming ecosystems and bringing about the loop where natural removal also cannot compete with the industrial one because of the reasons mentioned earlier.
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May 2nd, 2022
Contact: Erki Ani, firstname.lastname@example.org