European Economic and Social Committee opinion on Carbon removal technologies for the decarbonisation of industry

The adoption of the European Union Climate law has set an ambitious emission reduction target for 2030 while confirming the climate neutrality objective for 2050. According to the IPCC scenarios, keeping global warming below 1.5°C requires that global anthropogenic net emissions should be zero by around 2050. Secondly, meeting this goal requires the deployment of CDR, which can happen by means of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and removals in the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sector. The IPCC defines CDR as "anthropogenic activities removing CO2 from the atmosphere and durably storing it in geological, terrestrial, or ocean reservoirs, or in products".

The less rapid and stringent the GHG emissions reductions are, the stronger the dependence on CDR for meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement. Depending on when CDR is deployed, it can serve two different purposes: i) either accelerate the achievement of net-zero emissions by compensating for those from harder-to-abate sectors and thus increase the likelihood of staying within the temperature thresholds; or ii) bring global warming below the thresholds following a temperature peak above them (an overshoot).

Among CDR practices, it is worth distinguishing nature-based solutions including forestation, soil management, biochar and wetland restoration, and CDR technologies such as enhanced weathering, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture with CCS (DACCS).

The Fit for 55 legislative package indirectly promotes certain CDR technologies without proposing an integrated strategy whereas CDR technologies at industrial scale will be crucial to meet the 2050 climate neutrality objective.  Moreover, these technologies pose a series of challenges, in terms of the adverse social and environmental effects of social acceptance. Last but not least, the industrial CDR technologies can create lead value chains in Europe if the EU is among the first mover in developing these complementary solutions.