A commentary on the EU carbon removal certification framework

Authors: Frank Vasek, Marisa Steiner, Carbon Solutions of Timber Finance Initiative

The EU Commission has published the first framework on carbon removal certificates to scale negative emission technologies in the business environment. What does this framework mean for mass timber – recently acknowledged by the EU and the UNFCCC as a negative emission technology?

The Timber Finance View

The Timber Finance Initiative believes that the framework sets the right path for the construction sector and incentivizes the use of mass timber in construction. However, we strongly believe the focus should not be on construction alone, but also on the promotion of forest ecosystem services in order to establish and keep a healthy and functioning ecosystem for the generations to come. Sustainable timber procurement plays an essential role in the scaling of mass timber in construction.

Selected carbon removal technologies and criteria and their consequences for Mass Timber
Net Negative Emissions
  1. In general, a carbon removal activity, as defined by the EU, has to show net negative emissions: Meaning the carbon storage has to be higher than the operational CO2 emissions.
  • When we look at the Mass Timber Industry this means the following: The CO2 that is released during the construction process must be subtracted from the CO2 that is stored in the mass timber. Additional emission reductions from the carbon removal activity (in timber construction this would be the additional CO2 substitution effect when using timber instead of CO2-intensive materials like concrete and steel) will not be accounted as carbon removal but as co-benefits which increase the value of carbon removal certificates.
  • The framework emphasizes that “a distinction must be made between the accounting of carbon removals (storage) and emission reductions (co-benefits)” and we completely agree.
QUALITY criteria
  1. All carbon removal activities must ensure high quality (defined as “QUALITY criteria” (QUantification, Additionality and baseline, Long-term storage, and sustainabilITY of the carbon removal activity). A specific methodology must be developed for each carbon removal activity to ensure full compliance with the criteria.
Removal activities in framework
  1. The following removal activities are described in the framework (see figure 1):
  • Permanent storage in stable form made possible by DACCS and BECCS,
  • Carbon framing activities that naturally store carbon on land, such as agro-forestry, forest restauration, better soil management, etc.
  • Carbon storage in products, for example, mass timber products, where carbon is captured in the trees in the forest and stored as engineered timber in long-lasting products and structural building materials.

The following chart – taken from the IPCC report from 2018 and modified with mass timber – shows the cost-potential-relation among the various CCS approaches and where Mass Timber would fit in.

The effect on mass timber in construction

The framework confirms it is crucial to monitor the place of storage to ensure carbon removal. Additionally, the EU highlights that the removal certificates “should be used for result-based rewards and to incentivize the implementation and demand for additional carbon removal activities”.

We also strongly believe that stakeholders need to be compensated for their climate performance. EU states clearly that construction companies or property owners using sustainable building materials such as mass timber should benefit from carbon removal certificates.

You find the framework here: Certification of carbon removals (europa.eu)

Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to contact us: About Us – Timber Finance Initiative

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