EU drafts plan to remove more carbon emissions from the air

EU flags flutter in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS, Dec 1 (Reuters) - The European Union plans to capture five million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year by 2030 through technologies, and create an EU system to certify carbon removals, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The EU has committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050, eliminating the more than three billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent it currently emits each year.

Capturing five million tonnes would be a tiny fraction of total EU emissions, but the target would attempt to kickstart technologies in Europe to capture CO2 and place it in long-term storage sites. Brussels also wants to encourage farmers and landowners to store more CO2 in trees, soil and wetlands.

"The development and deployment at scale of carbon removal solutions is indispensable to climate-neutrality and requires significant targeted support in the next decade," said the document, which the European Commission is due to publish on Dec. 14.

The Commission will propose an EU system of certifying carbon removals next year, by measuring and verifying CO2 removals from individual land holdings, the draft said.

That could allow farmers and landowners who store CO2 to earn an EU-recognised credit. They could sell the credits to polluters needing to balance their emissions, creating a financial incentive to store CO2.

The system could also pave the way for an EU regulated market for carbon removals - an option that could happen after 2030, the draft said.

The Commission could not immediately be reached for comment on the draft, which could change before it is published.

NGOs including Greenpeace and Carbon Market Watch on Wednesday welcomed the draft proposal to verify CO2 removals, in an open letter to the Commission. The groups opposed, however, the draft's suggestion that CO2 removals could eventually be added to the EU's existing carbon market.

Alongside the carbon removals proposal, Brussels will this month unveil legislation forcing oil and gas firms to cut methane emissions, and new EU gas market rules. All aim to help the EU cut net emissions at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels, and reduce them to net zero by 2050. read more

Reporting by Kate Abnett Editing by Mark Potter and David Evans

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