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Network Connections - October

Removing obstacles to net-zero

Two weeks ago, in her State of the Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the Executive’s plan to increase the bloc’s 2030 emissions reduction target from 40% below 1990 to “at least 55%”. Ramping up the 2030 target is vital to putting the EU on a path to net zero emissions by mid-century, a goal which is likely to be enshrined in European law by the end of this year.  

A day after her speech, further detail was provided in the Commission’s 2030 Climate Target Plan and accompanying Impact Assessment. These documents outlined details to include and enhance the role of carbon removals from Europe’s farms and forests in reaching the 2030 target.

This development attracted criticism from some commentators as being an accounting trick and accusing the European Commission of cheating. The criticism is probably disingenuous; after all, the clue is in the name. Net zero – by definition – means compensating for any residual emissions by removing an equivalent volume of emissions from the atmosphere. This is at the very heart of the Paris Agreement which targets “a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.”

The concern, of course, is that by incorporating removals into the accounting process it delays action to reduce emissions at their source. But the paradigm where that approach was acceptable – to policy makers, investors, businesses or consumers – has long since passed. The scale of the climate crisis requires the full deployment of all forms of abatement, and the use of high-quality and transparent carbon credits  provides a way to achieve emission reductions far beyond what is technologically and economically possible today. This is quickly being recognised by a wide variety of stakeholders, evidenced by the myriad of initiatives that IETA and ICROA have been requested to participate in, such as the Mark Carney-led Taskforce on Scaling Voluntary Carbon Markets.

More importantly, including and enhancing the role of carbon removals in the 2030 target shows that the EU is serious about getting to net zero by 2050. To achieve this, it will require radical changes across all aspects of the economy, and for all stakeholders to really believe the change will happen and buy in to the transformation.

Excluding removals from the process would place almost all the burden on technological innovation to deliver the necessary abatement. It’s possible that this will occur, as low carbon solutions are being developed in all sectors. But a recent report  from the IEA  – which assessed more than 400 separate clean energy technologies – has also shown that many of them are nowhere near ready for commercial deployment. Carbon removals can help us achieve our environmental goals in the timescale science dictates while allowing the space for a scale-up in technological developments.

For all sectors of society to have faith in the net zero goal, the pathway to get us there has to be credible. Relying solely on technological innovation looks risky and unbelievable. Instead, the inclusion of removals in the EU’s plans helps deliver credibility and trust. It shows that policy makers are serious about achieving the goal, and that Europe will get there one way or the other. This message will help build the wave of momentum towards net zero, sweeping everyone with it until it becomes unstoppable and inevitable.

The role of carbon markets in reaching net zero, and many more topics, will be discussed at IETA’s October workshop on GHG emissions trading – held in collaboration with the IEA and EPRI. This is IETA’s longest running event, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary. The 2020 edition will feature a key note speech from IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol and a panel session on the EU ETS where we will hear the latest news about the new 2030 plan from Beatriz Yordi, Director of European & International Carbon Markets at DG CLIMA. This event is open to all IETA members only – join us now to secure your space.

Simon Henry
Director, Carbon Market Development

For more information about IETA and our work, check out www.ieta.org

IETA Live: Carbon Market Virtual Series

Join us as our FREE online series of webinars continue! Registration essential; see here for more information. Coming up in October...

  • 7 November: Regional Carbon Pricing & Markets Virtual Series - Latin America & Caribbean Edition - 9am Bogota/10am DC/4pm Geneva

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    IETA Member's Corner

    Indigo Ag

    How is Indigo Ag involved in the carbon market?

    At Indigo, we’re motivated by a vision of an agricultural system that delivers greater benefits for both people and the planet and are working to leverage digital solutions, scientific advancement, and technological innovation to help bring this system to life. We know agriculture can have a profound positive environmental impact and want to ensure that farmers can be rewarded for their role as stewards of one of our greatest natural resources. As carbon financing accelerates, Indigo seeks to help growers tap into this growing environmental and economic opportunity by facilitating the development of verified agricultural carbon credits through our Indigo Carbon program. Indigo Carbon connects farmers implementing beneficial growing practices proven to reduce emissions and capture atmospheric carbon dioxide in soil with buyers seeking to address their carbon footprints while directly supporting farmers leading the movement toward a more sustainable way of farming.   

    Why did you join IETA?

    The climate crisis necessitates swift action, and existing evidence points to agricultural soils as a meaningful and affordable nature-based solution. Given the urgency of the problem, we believe we must act on this unique opportunity for positive impact today. Collaboration and shared learning are critical to advancing this effort, as we work to ensure the resiliency of our farming systems and communities for generations to come. 

    IETA has done a remarkable job of bringing together stakeholders across various sectors - registries, buyers, carbon developers, researchers, nonprofits - and of harnessing the collective expertise, resources, and leadership of actors in this ecosystem to help scale accessible climate change mitigation solutions. We have much to learn from this diverse network and are grateful for the opportunity to also bring our insights from the field - implementing programs with growers at scale - back to the table.

    Ed Smith
    VP, Indigo Carbon

    IETA Publications


    IETA's Carbon Market Business Briefs offer an easy-to-read overview of the world's carbon markets. Aimed at business executives, these briefs outline the coverage, deadlines, penalties, flexibilities, trading dynamics and other features for each market. The briefs provide commentary from local IETA members and partners on recent market developments, and enable simple at-a-glance comparisons for business.


    The EU should extend its ETS to new sectors and set more ambitious medium-term targets in order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, finds a new report from IETA. Meeting the EU’s Climate Ambitions: The Evolution of Carbon Pricing to 2050 sets out how the bloc can realise its long-term climate goal through the use of market mechanisms, including removals and international cooperation. 


    IETA's Council released its guidance on net zero ambition, highlighting its support for the Paris Agreement and the role for markets in achieving net zero. This commitment to net zero will be adopted into IETA's working groups and guide the organisation's work going forward. 

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