European Green Deal: Commission proposals to remove, recycle and sustainably store carbon

The Communication also aims to develop blue carbon initiatives, as using nature-based solutions on coastal wetlands and regenerative aquaculture, provides further benefits for the environment

Today the Commission adopted a Communication on Sustainable Carbon Cycles, setting out how to increase removals of carbon from the atmosphere. To balance out the impacts of our CO2 emissions, the EU will need to drastically reduce its reliance on fossil carbon, upscale carbon farming to store more carbon in nature, and promote industrial solutions to sustainably and verifiably remove and recycle carbon. Removing and storing more carbon, from the atmosphere, oceans and coastal wetlands, is essential to achieve the EU's legally binding commitment to become climate neutral by 2050.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said: “Carbon removals are vital in keeping our climate commitments within reach. Together with sharp emission reductions, we need sustainable solutions for removing and recycling carbon, which will make our economy more resilient and help us fight both the climate and biodiversity crises. Today, we set out the main principles and objectives of our work to prepare the necessary rules. These rules will ensure carbon removals are credible and have the desired effect, and help to create new business opportunities in carbon farming for farmers, foresters, and other land managers.”

Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski added: “Agriculture and forestry are our allies in the fight against climate change, they mitigate its impacts by removing carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon farming will strengthen the contribution of farmers and foresters to the decarbonisation of our economy, by providing extra income for farmers, while protecting biodiversity, making farms more resilient to natural disasters and ensuring food security. Research and innovation will also contribute to this goal, providing further solutions to farmers and foresters.”

The Communication sets out short- to medium-term actions to support carbon farming and upscale this green business model to better reward land managers for carbon sequestration and biodiversity protection. By 2030, carbon farming initiatives should contribute 42Mt of CO2 storage to Europe's natural carbon sinks. Measures to achieve this goal include:

  • promoting carbon farming practices under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and other EU programmes such as LIFE and Horizon Europe's “Soil Deal for Europe” research mission, and through national public financing and private finance;
  • standardising the monitoring, reporting and verification methodologies needed to provide a clear and reliable certification framework for carbon farming, allowing for developing voluntary carbon markets;
  • provide improved knowledge, data management and tailored advisory services to land managers, both on land and within blue carbon ecosystem.

The Communication also aims to develop blue carbon initiatives, as using nature-based solutions on coastal wetlands and regenerative aquaculture, provides further benefits for ocean regeneration and oxygen production, and food security.

While the focus of the European Green Deal is on drastically reducing the use of fossil carbon, the EU economy will still need carbon as a feedstock for industrial processes, such as the production of synthetic fuels, plastics, rubbers, chemicals and other advanced materials. This carbon will increasingly be delivered by the bioeconomy and technological solutions that capture, use and store CO2. The Commission will engage in a dialogue with stakeholders with the aim of at least 20% of carbon use in chemical and plastic products to come from sustainable non-fossil sources by 2030. This will be done in full consideration of the EU's biodiversity and circular economy objectives and of the upcoming policy framework for bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics. In order to better manage these new carbon flows, support innovative technologies, and deliver carbon removals at scale, the Commission will help to develop an internal market for capturing, using and storing carbon and the necessary cross-border CO2 transport infrastructure. By 2030, 5Mt of CO2 should be removed annually from the atmosphere and permanently stored through technological solutions. The key funding instrument for these technologies in the near-term is the Innovation Fund, which is financed by the EU Emissions Trading System.

Next steps

By the end of 2022, the Commission will propose an EU regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals based on robust and transparent carbon accounting rules and requirements to monitor and verify the authenticity and environmental integrity of high-quality sustainable carbon removals. Such rules will provide the necessary legal framework to scale up carbon farming and industrial solutions removing carbon from the atmosphere. A Call for Evidence will also be launched in January 2022.

More information

Q&A Memo

Factsheet on sustainable carbon cycles

Communication on Sustainable Carbon Cycles

Staff working document on Sustainable Carbon Cycles

Staff working document on Carbon Farming

Technical Guidance Handbook – setting up and implementing result-based carbon farming mechanisms in the EU (also available in French, German, Italian and Spanish)

More information on sustainable carbon cycles

Delivering the European Green Deal


European Commission, press release, 2021-12-15.