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How can biomass fulfil its potential in EU carbon markets?

(Energy Post, 18 Mar 2024) In carbon markets such as the EU ETS, participants must monitor and report their emissions and ultimately pay for them.

Biomass occupies a unique place. It is well positioned to be a net-zero emissions energy source for hard-to-abate sectors. Coupled with effective on-site carbon capture technologies, it can be carbon negative. And there is a great diversity of project types involving forestry, biochar kilns, waste-to-energy, carbon capture and more. But these projects are under intense scrutiny due to problems around transparency and associated climate claims. Simon Göss and Hendrik Schuldt at carboneer assess the landscape, to help actors navigate the inherent complexities. Biomass projects must follow certain standards and methodologies for project set-up and emissions calculation. And third-party verification of the projects’ climate effects is needed to create trust and transparency where regulatory oversight is only rudimentary. Ultimately, the EU ETS needs the contribution of biomass to be both credible and effective.

Which CO2 and which carbon markets?

To assess the relevance of carbon markets for biomass and vice versa, requires an understanding of different types of emissions and how carbon markets account for them. The sources of CO2 emissions and their final sink can be categorised into four main pathways (Figure 1).

  • Unabated carbon emissions from fossil sources add emissions to the atmosphere (grey and black)
  • Abated emissions from fossil sources through carbon capture and storage (CCS) with long-term storage might not add additional GHG emissions to the atmosphere (purple)
  • Negative emissions through nature-based or technological carbon dioxide removal (CDR) solutions taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and storing it durably (green)
  • Utilisation of CO2 through carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies, where the ultimate source of the CO2 (atmospheric or fossil) and the final product into which the CO2-molecules has been transformed determine the climate impact (blue)

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Energy Post, 18 Mar 2024: How can biomass fulfil its potential in EU carbon markets?