What is the CRCF and how can we make it a reality?

Marian Kruger
1 July, 24

In April, the European Parliament formally approved and provisionally accepted the world’s first voluntary certification framework for carbon removals. Called the EU Carbon Removal Certification Framework, or CRCF for short, it introduces a policy framework that seeks to boost the uptake of carbon removals credits, and it covers a number of different types of carbon removals, from permanent carbon storage through industrial technologies, carbon storage in long-lasting products and carbon farming.

The stated aim of the framework is to support the development of carbon removals across the EU and to help fight greenwashing, and it is expected to have a major impact across at least three key areas. Firstly, EU climate policy, where all policies relating to CDR (carbon dioxide removals) from now on are expected to link to the CRCF for quality assurance of removals. This includes other recent policies such as its 2040 climate targets, the Industrial Carbon Management Strategy and the Green Claims Directive. Secondly, it will impact national climate policy. The EU’s 27 member states have all set net zero targets, and governments will utilise the CRCF in their national policies. Thirdly, it will immediately impact the voluntary carbon markets (VCM), where buyers will align their purchasing behaviour with the CRCF to anticipate compliance and ensure they’re following best practice.

It’s a positive step that the CRCF has been developed and that the process of adoption is now on its way but, at the same time, the real work and real impact starts now.

How we can unlock the CRCF’s potential

The scale of the carbon removal challenge is immense. According to CDR.fyi, the CDR industry is at 0.10% of the 10 Gigaton goal per year we need to meet the Paris Agreements goals of keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Besides the overall regulatory framework that defines what constitutes carbon removal, individual methodologies for the various CDR methods need to be developed. As nascent as the carbon removal industry is, it is too early to pick ‘winners’ in CDR approaches and technologies. Hence, is it critical that the CRCF remains open and tech-agnostic and develops methodologies for all CDR methods.

When implemented, the CRCF is a way in which we can scale the EU’s CDR capacity as the region seeks to enable and encourage the trust and credibility in carbon removal credits, which, in turn, will increase the flow of finance towards this new industry.

Finance and funding is what this sector so desperately needs. The EU (and the UK) is privileged to have some of the smartest scientists and entrepreneurs in the world, filled with start-ups that are developing novel approaches to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the likes of enhanced weathering, biochar carbon removal, soil carbon sequestration, direct air capture and storage, reforestation and more.

But these solutions and the impact that they can have won’t come into fruition without a regulatory landscape which encourages the growth of this industry, and an environment that creates trust and clarity for buyers and investors. If the fossil fuel industry is a trillion euro enterprise, then we need a similarly-sized CDR industry to alleviate its effects.

The role policymakers have to play in this and how to get them on board

CDRpolicy is complicated because the world of carbon removals and carbon finance is necessarily complex. Education, therefore, will be key. Take the EU’s new framework, which categorises carbon removal, as an example. This is split into four types: permanent carbon removals, temporary carbon storage (in long-lasting products such as wood-based construction, for at least 35 years), temporary carbon storage (from carbon farming, such as restoring forests and soil, wetland management, seagrass meadows for a minimum five years), and soil emission reductions obtained from carbon farming – critically, as the name suggests, the latter are emission reductions, not removals. This means the credits generated have fundamentally different climate benefits, which should be reflected in the claims buyers are allowed to make with them. For instance, a fossil emission that remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years should only be able to be compensated for with an equally permanent carbon removal unit – otherwise known as the like-for-like-principle. 

To get policymakers on board, and to help them to fully understand how to legislate CDR and support the CRCF framework, they need to see it to believe it. A few months ago, for example, we hosted an event at a direct air capture pilot facility in Berlin with over 60 individuals from the German parliament and policymakers, NGOs, civil society representatives and journalists. They were able to get up close to some of the CDR solutions currently being pioneered in Europe and, during a panel discussion, three members of the Bundestag discussed with CDR startups including InPlanet, Ucaneo, neustark and Novocarbo on strategies to bolster national and European CDR entrepreneurship.

It’s only by bringing CDR to life, to show its potential, its innovation and its impact in the flesh that policymakers will truly realise the potential this innovative space has to offer, and to how critical it is in saving our planet.

Making carbon removals a reality

Heralding in the world’s first carbon removal certification scheme gives the EU a first-mover advantage, and one which will drive growth in this market. The next step for the CRCF is for the parliament of  each EU member state to approve the legislation. Then, it’ll be down to governments and private businesses to finance CDR through purchasing credits, but only with education and proper financing will this nascent industry reach its true potential.

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