EUROPE
Deal reached on EU law regulating CO2 removals from forestry, land use

The European Parliament and EU member states reached an agreement late on Thursday (10 November) on a new law regulating the contribution of the forestry and land use sector to the EU’s 2030 climate goals.

The land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector covers the use of soils, trees, plants, biomass and timber and is responsible for emitting and absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Under the political agreement reached yesterday, the EU will aim to remove 310 million tonnes of net CO2 equivalent from LULUCF sectors by 2030.

“CO2 carbon sinks can help us achieve our climate goals, including carbon neutrality, and thus protecting our planet from the fatal negative consequences of climate change,” said Marian Jurečka, the Czech minister of the environment whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating six-month presidency.

“At the same time, the deal ensures different circumstances in each member state are taken into account when setting further ambition towards the 2030 targets,” Jurečka said in a statement.

National targets

Under the agreement, EU negotiators upheld until 2025 the existing “no debit rule”, which says emissions from LULUCF sectors should not exceed removals.

As of 2026, removals should start exceeding emissions, with each EU country assigned a binding national target for 2030, in line with the European Commission’s proposal tabled in July 2021.

Emissions from biomass used in energy production will also be accounted for, which wasn’t the case in the previous LULUCF regulation.

To prevent backsliding on those targets, EU countries will be assigned a carbon budget for 2026-2029 and a trajectory of indicative, annual values on removals and emissions.

The national CO2 removal targets are summarised in the table below:

                                    LULUCF national targets 2030 [Source: European Commission]

EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said the LULUCF deal will enable “more accurate monitoring” of Europe’s forest carbon sinks and put them back “on a path to growth”.

Forest carbon sinks have been declining in almost every EU country over the past years,  according to official data compiled by researchers who attributed the loss to increased harvesting for biomass fuel.

Once finalised, the forestry and land use regulation will also “open the door to a higher EU climate target,” Timmermans said on Twitter.

The EU aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% before the end of the decade, a target that could be raised “to close to 57%” after the LULUCF deal, said Pascal Canfin, a French centrist MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s environment committee.

 

Flexibility

The LULUCF deal included sweeteners for EU member states, with some flexibilities built into the legislation to account for national differences.

Under the political agreement struck yesterday, EU member states will keep the possibility of purchasing or selling “removal units” from each other. They will also be able to use surplus emissions from other sectors, like buildings, agriculture and waste, which are regulated under the so-called ‘Effort Sharing’ law.

A general flexibility clause was added as well in case of natural disturbances caused by climate change such as wildfires, pests or soil emissions – “provided that the Union as a whole meets its 2030 target,” according to an EU statement describing the main elements of yesterday’s deal.

The flexibility mechanism can be granted “up to a fixed limit” and provided EU countries submit evidence to the Commission following a pre-defined methodology, the statement adds.

Environmental NGOs critical

Environmental groups were critical of the LULUCF deal, denouncing its lack of ambition and transparency.

“While today’s outcome is an improvement to current rules, member states insisted on bringing back many loopholes that will allow them to cheat with the atmosphere, but look good on paper,” said Ulriikka Aarnio from Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.

According to CAN Europe, the final deal on the LULUCF was “butchered” by EU member states, with Scandinavian countries in particular pushing to lower the level of ambition initially showed by the European Commission.

A big issue, for instance, relates to transparency in the accounting methodologies, which one activist described as “more dizzyingly complicated than ever,” even for experts on LULUCF.

“I’d say it’s worse than creative accounting – it’s devious accounting because it’s deliberately complex so as to obfuscate,” the activist said.

The deal on the LULUCF regulation comes amid a decline of carbon sinks in Finland, Sweden and Estonia, the EU’s three most forested countries, CAN Europe pointed out.

Source: Euractiv.com

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