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EU sets ambitious 2040 climate target and highlights need for carbon removals

Key take-aways:

  • Today, the European Commission announced its recommendation for a 2040 climate target.  

  • The plan includes a 90% net reduction of GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2040, and expresses a clear need for carbon dioxide removal (CDR).  

  • This proposal by the Commission marks the beginning of a new era for climate policy mandating durable CDR, and signals a need to rapidly scale up the entire carbon removal sector.  

  • The newly released Industrial Carbon Management Strategy also points to a need for both large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon removal.  

Today, the EU Commission announced its 2040 climate target recommendation. The plan includes a 90% net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2040, and implies a proposal for 10% carbon dioxide removal (CDR). CDR is further separated between industrial (including direct air capture & storage) and land-based, with the proposal calling for total carbon removal quantities of up to 400Mt of CO₂.  

Climeworks welcomes the EU Commission’s effort to set a firm climate target for 2040, and it is particularly positive to note the inclusion of carbon removals within the target-setting. Climeworks especially welcomes the European Commission’s ambition for a 90% reduction, as it aligns with climate science and feedback provided by the European Scientific Advisory Board, as well as Climeworks’ and the Negative Emissions Platform’s recommendations during the open consultation phase.   

Accelerating emissions reductions will remain the primary focus within this target-setting. Therefore, we encourage policymakers throughout the EU to continue prioritizing broad decarbonization solutions, including widespread electrification and the development of low-carbon technologies. However, this communication clearly marks the beginning of a new era for climate policy that now mandates durable CDR before net zero. The operationalization of this goal is of utmost importance, necessitating the rapid scale-up and deployment of carbon removal via the build-up of policies supporting and maturing this novel sector (i.e. a dedicated CDR track for large-scale projects within the EU Innovation Fund).

Given that CDR is only aspirational within the EU’s 2030 climate targets, it is important that CDR solutions are already deployed now, and that 2030 onwards becomes the “decade of CDR.” Climeworks is uniquely positioned for this, being the first direct air capture company to begin commercial deployment several years ago. Additionally, we understand and are ready to support the development of carbon removal policies that will be necessary to spur deployment in the 2030 decade.

Christoph Beuttler
Christoph Beuttler, Chief Climate Policy Officer at Climeworks
This is another strong step towards Net Zero for carbon removal and climate policy as a whole. As this proposal moves towards a formalized legislative framework, we need further distinction in the target setting, meaning separate targets for reductions and removals. Additionally, successfully scaling a portfolio of CDR to meet the likely volumes of unavoidable emissions will require distinct categorization for types of CDR, due to their unique characteristics. In practice, this would again necessitate separate sub-targets for land-based, biomass-based and purely tech-based solutions such as enhanced weathering or direct air capture.

The European Commission has also released its Industrial Carbon Management strategy, which offers an outlook for the removal and storage of millions of tonnes of CO₂ within the European continent in the next three decades. Within the plan, Climeworks welcomes the clear separation of point-source CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) as an emissions reduction measure and CDR to remove unavoidable emissions. Said differentiation is necessary as both will be vital to securing a net zero and eventually, net negative carbon emissions future.

This is an exciting time for the burgeoning carbon removal sector, and Climeworks looks forward to further ambitious climate policy developments within the European Union. We hope to see the finalization of a formal legislative framework for the proposed target-setting and similar policies in the near future.

Read more about Climeworks’ views on the inclusion of carbon removal in target setting:

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