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04. Januar 2022

RCI: Political tailwind for alternative carbon sources

According to the Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI), the political situation for renewable carbon from biomass, CO2 and recycling for the defossilisation of the chemical and materials industry has begun to shift fundamentally in Europe. For the first time, important policy papers from Brussels and Germany take into consideration that the term decarbonisation alone is not sufficient, and that there are important industrial sectors with a permanent and even growing carbon demand. Finally, the need for a sustainable coverage of this carbon demand and the realisation of sustainable carbon cycles have been identified on the political stage. They are elemental to the realisation of a sustainable chemical and derived materials industry.

The goal is to create sustainable carbon cycles. This requires comprehensive carbon management of renewable sources, which includes carbon from biomass, carbon from Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) – the industrial use of CO2 as an integral part – as well as mechanical and chemical recycling. And only the use of all alternative carbon streams enables a true decoupling of the chemical and materials sector from additional fossil carbon from the ground. Only in this way can the chemical industry stay the backbone of modern society and transform into a sustainable sector that enables the achievement of global climate goals, said RCI.

The initiative’s major aim is to support the smart transition from fossil to renewable carbon: utilising carbon from biomass, CO2 and recycling instead of additional fossil carbon from the ground. This is crucial because 72 % of the human-made greenhouse gas emissions are directly linked to additional fossil carbon. The RCI said it supports all renewable carbon sources available, but the political support is fragmented and differs between carbon from biomass, recycling or carbon capture and utilisation (CCU). Especially CCU has so far not been a strategic objective in the Green Deal and Fit-for-55.

This will change fundamentally with the European Commission's communication paper on “Sustainable Carbon Cycles” published on 15 December 2021. The position in the paper represents an essential step forward that shows embedded carbon has reached the political mainstream – supported by recent opinions from members of the European parliament and also, apparently, by the upcoming IPCC assessment report 6. Now, CCU becomes a recognised and credible solution for sustainable carbon cycles and a potentially sustainable option for the chemical and material industries. Also, in the political discussions in Brussels, the term “defossilation” is appearing more and more often, complementing or replacing the term decarbonisation in those areas where carbon is indispensable. MEP Maria da Graça Carvahlo is among a number of politicians in Brussels who perceive CCU as an important future industry, putting it on the political map and creating momentum for CCU. This includes the integration of CCU into the new Carbon Removal Regime and the Emission Trading System (ETS).

As the new policy documents are fully in line with the strategy of the RCI, the more than 30 member companies of the initiative are highly supportive of this new development and are ready to support policy-maker with data and detailed suggestions for active support and the realisation of sustainable carbon cycles and a sound carbon management.


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