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Forests and climate: Blog

Forstwirtschaftliche Berechnungsregeln bringen die Glaubwürdigkeit der EU-Klimaschutzvorstellungen in Gefahr

von Dr. Joanna I. House

Forstwirtschaftlicher Klimaschutz sollte nach einer wissenschaftlich objektiven Vorgehensweise gemessen werden, die es Staaten nicht erlaubt, die Auswirkungen politischer Maßnahmen, die die Nettoemissionen erhöhen, zu verbergen. Dies schreibt eine Gruppe von Umweltwissenschaftlern unter der Leitung von Dr. Joanna I. House.

Dr. Joanna I. House ist wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin für ökologische Wissenschaften und Umweltpolitik am Cabot Institute, Universität Bristol, Vereinigtes Königreich. Sie ist zusammen mit anderen, am Ende dieses Artikels aufgeführten, Umweltwissenschaftlern Koautorin dieses Meinungsartikels.

Als Präsident Trump sich vom Pariser Klimaschutzübereinkommen zurückzog, sprach der EU-Kommissar für Klimapolitik, Miguel Arias Cañete, für alle EU-Mitgliedstaaten, als er meinte: „Dies hat uns eher zusammengeschweißt als geschwächt, und dieses Vakuum wird von einer neuen breiten engagierten Führung aufgefüllt werden.” Der französischen Staatspräsident, Emmanuel Macron, schlug mit seinem Tweet in die gleiche Kerbe: „Macht unseren Planeten erneut groß”.

Entsprechend der Redewendung ‚den Worten müssen Taten folgen’, gibt es keinen besseren Beginn als gerade jene Gesetze, die die EU derzeit vorbereitet, um die Zielvorgaben für 2030 nach dem Pariser Übereinkommen zu implementieren. Dies beinhaltet ein besonders umstrittenes Thema, das die EU-Umweltminister am 19. Juni erörtern werden, nämlich die buchhaltungstechnischen Grundsätze für die klimatischen Auswirkungen von Wäldern.

Wälder sind entscheidend für die Begrenzung der Erderwärmung auf 2 Grad Celsius. Auf die Abholzung gehen fast 10 % der von Menschen verursachten CO2-Emissionen zurück, während Wälder fast ein Drittel der CO2-Emissionen aus der Atmosphäre entnehmen.

In der EU wachsen derzeit mehr Wälder als geerntet werden.  Daraus ergibt sich ihre Rolle als Netto-CO2-Senke,  die jährlich über 400 Mio t CO2 aus der Atmosphäre entfernt. Dies entspricht 10 % aller Treibhausgasemissionen der EU.

Die von den Mitgliedstaaten beschlossenen oder beabsichtigten Maßnahmen werden sie wahrscheinlich veranlassen, mehr Bäume abzuholzen (z.B. für die Bioökonomie und Bioenergie), und hierdurch die  CO2-Senke zu verringern. Die Auseinandersetzung geht einfach gesagt darüber, wenn Wälder aufgrund dieser Politik weniger CO2 entnehmen, sollte dies rechnerisch berücksichtigt werden.

Gestützt auf die aus dem Kyoto Protokoll gelernten Erfahrungen, schlug die EU-Kommission vor, dass sich die buchhaltungstechnische Verrechnung der Auswirkung der Wälder auf die Atmosphäre auf eine wissenschaftlich robuste Grundlinie stützen sollte. Letztere (auch als ‘Forstwirtschaftlicher Referenzwert’ bezeichnet) sollte historische Daten zu fortwirtschaftlichen Aktivitäten und Forstwirtschaftsdynamik (altersspezifischer Wandel) berücksichtigen. Falls Staaten in der Entwicklung forstwirtschaftliche Aktivitäten ändern, so würden die atmosphärischen Auswirkungen dieses Wandels insgesamt berechnet aufgrund der resultierenden Veränderungen in den Treibhausgasemissionen und -Senken gegenüber dem Referenzwert. Diese Vorgehensweise stimmt überein mit der Treibhausgas-Bilanzierung aller anderen Sektoren.

Dann haben einige EU-Mitgliedstaaten vorgeschlagen, eine Ausweitung der Abholzung, potentiell bis hin zur gesamten Wald-Zuwachsrate, nicht zu bestrafen. Dies würde erreicht, indem man diese Erntezunahme und den diesbezüglichen Wandel der Netto-Kohlenstoffsenke im Referenzwert integriert.

Als Bodennutzungsexperten, die an wissenschaftlichen und methodischen Berichten (einschließlich dem Zwischenstaatlichen Sachverständigenrat für Klimafragen, IPCC), der Implementierung der Treibhausgas-Inventurberichte und der wissenschaftlichen Beratung von Regierungen beteiligt sind, haben wir mehrere wissenschaftliche Bedenken bei dieser Vorgehensweise.

Im Hinblick auf die Atmosphäre führt eine verringerte CO2-Senke in Wäldern zu mehr in der Atmosphäre verbleibendem CO2, und entspricht tatsächlich einer Netto-Steigerung der Emissionen. Dies ist wahr, selbst wenn die Wälder „dauerhaft” bewirtschaftet werden, d.h. selbst wenn die Ernten nicht den nachwachsenden Wald übersteigen.

Dies ist umso komplizierter als die Themen sektorübergreifend sind. Größere Erntemengen können die CO2-Aufnahme durch Wälder verringern, aber die Verwendung von  geerntetem Holz kann in anderen Sektoren zu Emissionsreduktionen führen, z.B. mit der Substitution anderer emissionsintensiverer Materialien (z.B. Zement) oder fossiler Energie durch Holz. Diese Emissionsreduktionen werden implizit in den Nicht-LULUCF-Sektoren verrechnet.  Daher müssen, um Verzerrungen durch unvollständige Bilanzierung zu vermeiden, auch die gesamten Auswirkungen einer ausgeweiteten Ernte ausgewiesen werden.

Außerdem könnten politisch induzierte Erntesteigerungen im Referenzwert effektiv bis zu jährlich 400 Mio t CO2 aus der forstwirtschaftlichen Biomass-Buchhaltung der EU verstecken verglichen mit der “Senkenleistung”, mit der die EU-Wälder derzeit aufwarten, oder bis zu jährlich 300 Mio t CO2 bezogen auf einen wissenschaftlich begründeten Referenzwert (bis zu zwei Drittel der jährlichen Emissionen Frankreichs).

Falls politische Auswirkungen auf die landgebundenen Netto-CO2-Senken ignoriert oder geschmälert werden, würde dies:

  • die Glaubwürdigkeit der EU-Bioenergiebilanzierung beeinträchtigen: die aktuellen IPCC-Vorgaben zur Meldung von Bioenergieemissionen gehen nicht davon aus, dass sie CO2-neutral sind, aber irgendwelche CO2-Reduktionen sollten besser unter den ‚Landnutzung, Landnutzungsänderung und Forstwirtschaft’ (LULUCF) Sektoren als im Energiesektor bilanziert werden (um eine Doppelerfassung zu vermeiden). Die EU-Rechtsvorschriften zur Bioenergie vertrauen in ähnlicher Weise auf der Annahme, dass CO2-Emissionen vollkommen unter LULUCF ausgewiesen werden.
  • die Übereinstimmung von EU-Klimazielen und den IPCC-Entwicklungsbahnen gefährden. Das Ziel der EU, Treibhausgasemissionen  bis 2030 um 40% (-80/95% bis 2050) gegenüber den Werten von 1990 zu senken, beruht auf dem IPCC-Treibhausgasziel von 2°C für  Industrieländer. Diese Zielvorgabe stützt sich nicht allein auf Emissionen, sondern auch auf landbezogenen Senken. Wird ein Rückbau von landbezogenen Senken verborgen, riskiert man Misserfolge, die Temperaturziele zu erreichen, und würden weitere Emissionsverringerungen in anderen Sektoren notwendig, um mit den IPCC-Ziellinien konsistent zu bleiben.
  • dem Gedanken des Paris Übereinkommens widersprechen, nämlich dass „die Beteiligten Maßnahmen zur Erhaltung und Ausweitung von Senken ergreifen sollten”, und dass die Parteien für Transparenz in der Bilanzierung sorgen sollten;  der Aufbau von Vertrauen sollte dafür sorgen, dass der einzelstaatlich festgelegte Beitrag jedes Landes (das Ausmaß seines angestrebten Klimaschutzes) erreicht wird, ohne die Auswirkungen nationaler Politik zu verbergen.
  • international ein gefährlicher Präzedenzfall sein, der möglicherweise andere Länder zu gleichem Verhalten verleiten könnte (d.h. zur Festlegung von Referenzwerten für die  Abholzung). Dies würde die Glaubwürdigkeit des von Vielen erwarteten Beitrags der Forstwirtschaft zum Pariser Übereinkommen kompromittieren.

Das Pariser Übereinkommen benötigt eine glaubhafte und transparente forstwirtschaftliche Buchhaltung; die Führungspersonen der EU treffen derzeit Entscheidungen, die den Standard festlegen könnten.  Die Aufnahme politisch initiierter Erntesteigerungen in Referenzwerten bedeutet, dass die atmosphärischen Auswirkungen politischer Forstmaßnahmen wirksam vor den Bilanzen verborgen werden (während sie für Treibhausgaseinsparungen in anderen Sektoren sorgen). Ginge forstwirtschaftliche Buchhaltung von einem objektiv wissenschaftlichen Ansatz aus, würde dies für die Glaubwürdigkeit der Bioenergie-Buchhaltung, die Übereinstimmung zwischen den Klimazielen der EU und den IPCC-Zielvorstellungen von 2°C sowie für die Erfüllung des Gedankens des Pariser Übereinkommens sorgen. Eine falsche Entscheidung würde die Gefahren eines Klimawandels vergrößern und unsere Fähigkeiten untergraben, “unseren Planeten wieder groß zu machen”.

Haftungsausschluss: die Autoren bringen ihre persönlichen Ansichten gemäß ihren Fähigkeiten zum Ausdruck, sie repräsentieren weder ihre Heimatländer noch irgendeine der Institutionen, für die sie tätig sind.

Białowieża forest struggle is symptomatic of a greater ill

As Polish authorities disregard national protests and international pressure to stop logging, activists face increasing hostility in order to protect Białowieża, Europe’s last primeval forest. Activists estimate that 600-900 trees are felled daily.

When the authorities recently tripled the logging allowed in Białowieża forest (FW 227) – despite the protests of scientists and citizens – international reaction was strong. Białowieża is protected under the UN’s World Heritage Convention, and noting reports of clearcutting and culling bison with ‘utmost concern,’ UNESCO asked Poland to maintain the integrity of protected old-growth forest. It strongly urged Poland to put an immediate halt to all logging and wood extraction.

Białowieża is also a Natura 2000 site, home to more than 150 bird, animal and plant species protected under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. The European Commission initiated infringement proceedings in June 2016. Failing to obtain redress, it referred the matter to the European Court of Justice on 13 July 2017, asking for interim measures to halt the destruction while the issue works its way through the judicial process.

Despite these positive policy steps, there has been no change on the ground.

Indeed, Polish authorities’ response has been belligerent and dismissive of international authority.

Activists attempting to monitor logging activities report that the forest resembles a war zone: harvesters are accompanied by an “an army of forest guards and police  – this is no exaggeration. It really is risky, and the guards have become increasingly aggressive.” Protesters’ license plates have been noted and their cars are followed by guards and police. Some 80 individuals have been sent letters by the State Forest Unit that owns the harvesters, holding them personally liable for losses due to blockades, which it places at 65,000 Polish Złoty (Euro 15,000).

Poland’s Minister of Environment Jan Szyszko issued a declaration in which he invokes wounded nationalism, objecting “to insults directed against Poland and the Poles” by external efforts to ensure respect for legal obligations. He dismisses the dispute in Białowieża as a difference of opinion concerning methods of conservation, and portrays Polish authorities merely as engaging in a more “active” form of protection.

His threats take the form of an invitation to those who would halt the logging – under the influence of “neoliberal organisations” spreading “false information” through a “press with leftist and liberal leanings” – to provide their personal information so that they can be held financially responsible when conservation methods are compared, noting that a 2016 inventory of protected species cost approximately Euro 1.2 million. Scientists, UNESCO representatives, European ministers of environment, and European Commission officials received letters with a similar message.

Beyond the destruction of future generations’ natural heritage, Poland’s antagonistic stance threatens the rule of law. Both chambers of Parliament recently approved a law that hands control of the nation’s Supreme Court to the Minister of Justice by allowing him to dismiss its judges at will.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and former Polish Prime Minister, sounded the alarm about the ruling Law and Justice Party’s march toward authoritarianism. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President Lech Wałęsa condemned the move, urging a crowd in Gdańsk to “use all means to take back what we achieved for you.” Borys Budka, former Polish Minister of Justice, called the ‘reform’ the “biggest fraud in the history of the Polish Parliament.” President Duda has vetoed portions of this ‘reform’ but announced that he will approve the aspect that allows the Minister of Justice to dismiss heads of lower courts and influence their decisions.

Addendum: On 28 July 2017 the Court granted interim relief in the matter, requiring a halt to logging in order to prevent "serious and irreversible damage" until the case can be decided

The future is uncertain on many levels. The EU is weighing use of Article Seven, an unprecedented move that could lead Poland to lose its voting rights in the Council of Ministers. As for Białowieża, an annex to the management plan is being prepared that would allow still more logging, and given Polish authorities disdain for both national and external legal processes, the effect of any European Court of Justice ruling is uncertain. Chillingly, the extreme-right National Radical Camp has just launched a call for youth to patrol the forests searching for what they call ‘terrorists’ – the activists brave enough to uphold the law on the ground. 

 

Blog: Aviation industry's carbon offsetting plans keep flying into trouble

by Julia Christian

Keeping global warming below 1.5°C - which the Paris Agreement strives to – means fundamental changes for industries from energy to transport. Yet the aviation sector - one of the planet’s biggest emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) - is trying to avoid making changes.  If it were a country, aviation would be the world’s seventh largest emitter. So the challenge to reduce its emissions is urgent. The response so far from the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has been to actually propose an increase in flying.

ICAO released its plan to make aviation sustainable in September 2016. Instead of getting the sort of fanfare the Paris Agreement received, its plans were met with shock and horror. Despite small positive steps such as introducing more fuel-efficient planes, the main thrust of their plan was to use the widely discredited tools of offsetting and biofuels.

This can never be considered “green”.

ICAO claims it will “offset” its increased emissions through a Global Market Based Mechanism. It remains unclear where these offsets will come from. Given the huge number of credits airlines would need to purchase to meet these plans, many presume that the industry will focus on trees, which have long been seen as a source of cheap offsets. A handful of conservation organisations are even touting them as a solution to ICAO’s growth plans.

But there is one problem: forest offsets don’t work…

…aviation emissions are released by burning fossil fuels which have been storing carbon underground for millennia. This permanent increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cannot be solved by a temporary storage in forests. As soon as trees burn or decay, they release the emissions right back into the air — and emissions keep rising.

Even if offsets did work, with less than five years left until global emissions put the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature aspiration out of reach, we do not have the luxury of choosing between reducing emissions and protecting forests. We need to do both.

In addition, forest offset projects have a dubious history of displacing local communities from their land—despite international safeguards. Unjust offset projects leave rural people in poor countries — those least responsible for climate change — yet again paying the price for the consumption habits of a small class of people: only seven per cent of the world’s population fly.   

Finally, the size of the offsets required is completely unachievable. When countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, they made commitments to reduce their emissions, including by protecting and restoring their forests. When one looks at how much forest has already been counted as part of forested countries’ Paris Agreement commitments, there is virtually none left for airlines to use as offsets, and certainly not enough for the massive emissions increase they plan.  

The ICAO is meeting in October this year to decide which projects will be allowed as offsets under their Global Market Based Mechanism. One hundred NGOs have already agreed that forests must not be one of the options, even if this means giving up on ICAO’s dream of constant upward growth.

Blog: Analysis of draft LULUCF reports

By Hannah Mowat

The recently-published draft reports of the Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) regulation give an indication of which direction the different committees’ rapporteurs would like to take the file. Here we offer a quick overview of the main highlights and lowlights:

Environment Committee report: The ENVI Committee is in charge of the LULUCF file and so its report is of most interest. It is worrying therefore that rapporteur Norbert Lins’ draft proposes to fundamentally weaken the LULUCF Regulation in two key ways: First, he suggests ignoring the emissions related to any increased harvesting that took place between 2009 - 2012; second, he proposes doubling the cap on forest management credits from 200 to 400 megatonnes (MT). Allowing Member States to offset a further 200 MT would be the equivalent of leaving almost 200 million more cars on the road. Lins’ report goes against his native country Germany’s amendments, which seek to strengthen the Commission proposal.

Agriculture Committee report: The rapporteur Elisabeth Köstinger’s report (which closely follows the amendment proposed by her native country Austria) undermines the Commission’s proposal in almost every way. The proposal removes the need to count emissions and removals from forests correctly, so that, for instance, future emissions from forests would not be counted. Changing the way emissions from forest removals are counted fundamentally undercuts the ability of the EU to ensure that bioenergy emissions are properly accounted for, since the carbon dioxide released from bioenergy is meant to be counted at the point of harvest not the point of combustion. The proposal also further weakens the credibility of credits generated by forest management, ending the hopes of many Member States that forest management could be used to offset emissions in the future.

Development Committee report: Rapporteur Florent Marcellesi has chosen to strengthen the Commission’s proposal in several ways. Recognising the international implications if the EU agrees weak rules, he proposed that all human-induced emissions are counted – not hidden in forests. This sets the best precedent for countries facing high levels of deforestation.

Industry, Research and Energy Committee report: Rapporteur Marisa Matias also proposes to strengthen the LULUCF Regulation, suggesting that emissions and removals from wetlands be counted and affirming that any actions to increase carbon in land and forests must comply with the EU’s biodiversity legislation.

Comment on COP22: The Paris Agreement - a forest and rights perspective

November 4, Brussels – The Paris Climate Agreement enters in to force today, less than a year after it was agreed. Such a rapid adoption indicates that there remains strong political will to tackle climate change. Fern’s analysis of the Agreement, called it an “historic moment and an achievement of international diplomacy”. We also warned that the net zero emissions target risked relying too much on the land use sector which could pose significant additional risks to forests, food security, and the land rights of vulnerable communities.

As the build up to the 2016 Marrakech climate conference (COP22) continues, Fern is urging the EU to limit greenhouse gas emissions sooner rather than later, and to offer greater protection to forests and forest peoples’ rights.

More ambition

The EU’s current emissions reduction targets were set before the Paris Agreement was negotiated. These targets have no chance of achieving the Paris Agreement and so will have devastating impacts on some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The EU’s biggest instrument for dealing with climate change is the Effort Sharing Regulation, which mandates member states to reduce emissions in certain key sectors by 30 per cent. Increasing the ambition to a 45 per cent reduction is both achievable and consistent with the Paris Agreement.

Forests are more than a place to keep carbon

The Paris Agreement comes after years of prevaricating and delay which has meant that levels of greenhouse gases are so high that we already need to look at how to remove them as well as getting close to zero emissions. As trees and forest ecosystems extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and temporarily store carbon, they seem an obvious place for emissions-removal work. There is a real danger however that, if done poorly, such attempted reductions would threaten food security, community land rights and forests. Fern highlights the issues in our report on the topic, Going Negative.

The best and safest way to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is to restore existing forests, and the most consistent way to ensure rich and biodiverse forests is to respect and protect the land rights of the communities that live there.

Despite the urgent action required, the EU’s proposed new regulation on land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) will allow Member States to actually increase carbon emissions. This needs to change. The Regulation should incentivise the restoration of European forests, thereby increasing their capacity to store carbon. This restoration work must not however be used as an excuse for industry to pump even more greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere.

Changing consumption patterns

Deforestation is still a major source of carbon emissions, and most deforestation is caused by commercial agriculture. As a leading consumer of products grown or reared on deforested land, the EU needs find ways to strip deforestation out of its international supply chains. If it cannot do this, the chances of the world meeting the targets set by the Paris Agreement are slim.

The EU is currently conducting a feasibility study into an Action Plan to reduce deforestation and protect rights, to tackle precisely this issue. Fern and many other NGOs are calling on the EU to ensure such an Action Plan considers all the areas in which action needs to be taken.

One way to reduce emissions is by replacing fossil fuels with low carbon alternatives, such as wind and solar. Unfortunately, EU renewable energy policy presently relies on biomass. Bioenergy provides almost 65 per cent of overall renewable energy consumption despite the fact that burning biomass for energy can increase carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and reduce the carbon stored in forests or wood products. Fern explains the possible climate impacts of bioenergy use in a briefing note ‘Burning trees is no solution to climate change’.

Fern will be attending the COP and will be analysing how decisions will affect forests and forest peoples. All material will be available from our website www.fern.org and our Twitter account https://twitter.com/Fern_NGO

Most recent publications

How the EU Governance Regulation can help achieve negative emissions

This briefing explains that there is effectively only one realistic and sustainable way to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere (negative emissions): forests.

Forests and climate will suffer from Council’s decision

EU Environment ministers today bowed to pressure from a small nucleus of nations led by Finland, and opted for damaging new carbon accounting rules on land and forests (known as the LULUCF Regulation). This press release explains why this matters for the climate and explains the history of the negotiations in a nutshell.

MEPs fail dismally on forests and climate

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have undermined the EU’s fight against climate change and reversed years of painstaking work by scientists, campaigners and others by voting for a last-minute amendment on how EU nations account for emissions from their land and forests sector – the so-called LULUCF Regulation. This press release explains the damage their vote will do to climate ambition and bioenergy legislation.

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PDF iconFinal LULUCF PR.pdf442.08 KB

Białowieża forest struggle is symptomatic of a greater ill

 

As Polish authorities disregard national protests and international pressure to stop logging, activists face increasing hostility in order to protect Białowieża, Europe’s last primeval forest. Activists estimate that 600-900 trees are felled daily.

EU’s Environment Committee recognises role of forests in fighting climate change but fails on bioenergy

The European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee today voted to increase removals of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by forests from 2030 onwards, recognising the important role that EU fore

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