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Forests and climate: Briefing note

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.

With much of Europe’s land already taken up by agriculture and urban areas, meeting the Paris targets will require the restoration of Europe’s existing forests, many of which have become degraded from over-harvesting. Restoring these degraded forests could provide most of the negative emissions Europe needs.

What impact has the Renewable Energy Directive had on EU forests?

The EU Renewable Energy Directive was launched in 2009 to great fanfare and the promise that the EU would fulfil at least 20 per cent of its total energy needs with renewables. Few could have guessed that a policy intended to help the EU meet climate goals would lead to vast increases in the burning of wood, degrading forests in Europe and beyond. See a summary of the new research commissioned by Fern, Birdlife Europe and Transport & Environment:
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Briefing note:

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PDF iconFull report489.12 KB
PDF iconReport summary310.81 KB

Arctic Limits: How Finland’s forest policies threaten the Sámi and the climate

Finland is a test case in the fight against climate change. As the world edges closer to breaching the Paris Agreement goal of keeping global temperature rises below 2 degrees, forests have become increasingly important in discussions around how to battle climate change. Yet accounting for emissions from the forests sector is devilishly complex and riddled with loopholes. This briefing focusses on the case of Finland, Europe’s most heavily forested nation.

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PDF iconArctic Limits_Final.pdf1.77 MB

How to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? Focus on forests

In September 2015, world governments adopted an Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. The aims are noble and daunting – end all forms of poverty, fight inequality, address climate change, and ensure that no one is left behind. This leaflet explains why these goals cannot be met without changes to EU forest policy.

It is not enough to see forests as an ‘environment-only’ issue. Protecting forests and the communities that defend them is just as much about poverty eradication, food security, climate change, social justice and sustainable consumption and production patterns. Any EU response to the SDGs must therefore include the protection of forests and the recognition and promotion of the rights of those who live in them.

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PDF iconFocus on forests.pdf401.04 KB

Cheating the climate: the problems with aviation industry plans to offset emissions

The UN Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas does not cover emissions from international aviation. These are regulated by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which has been tasked with adopting a proposal to tackle emissions from international aviation.

Their proposal shows a terrifying like of ambition. This briefing shows that their suggestion of allowing the industry to grow indefinitely, merely introducing compulsory offsetting for growth in emissions from 2027 is fraught with problems. It focuses on the major risk that claimed reductions in emissions in general, and from deforestation in particular, will be counted twice.

Such double-counting would cheat the climate. The briefing is based on Who takes the Credit? REDD+ in a post-2020 UN climate agreement.

Why LULUCF cannot ensure that bioenergy reduces emissions

The European Commission is currently reviewing the sustainability of uses and sources of bioenergy for the period after 2020. They will also propose a new policy on how to include the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector in the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework. This briefing note presents the problems of relying on LULUCF to ensure bioenergy reduces carbon emissions. It shows that the assumption that emissions from biomass harvests are fully accounted for in the LULUCF sector comes with large caveats. More importantly, the incentives and burden of proof should be put on the energy producer, rather than on the land sector.

The coalition recommends that:

  • the EU strengthens LULUCF policy, and adopts additional policy measures to ensure that bioenergy delivers robust greenhouse gas emission savings
  • the EU introduces a cap on the amount of bioenergy that can be counted towards 2030 renewable energy and climate targets
  • the EU legislates against the use of high risk biomass sources and introduces a minimum threshold for the efficiency of energy production systems

LULUCF: what would a good proposal look like?

As the ratification process for the Paris Climate Agreement begins, a new Fern briefing has shown how the EU’s new policy on land and forests could help it to be more ambitious on its climate change targets, and set a positive precedent globally by developing a separate pillar - with its own target - for the so-called LULUCF sector.

The briefing is based on a study produced for Fern by the Oeko-Institut, the environmental research institute. You can read the full report here.

The briefing includes Fern’s recommendations to the EU to decarbonise deeper and faster and to use land and forests to mitigate climate change to help it meet the Paris Agreement’s new, more ambitious target to limit global warming.

It also includes graphs, compiled by the Oeko-Institut, showing the historical and projected emissions and removals from LULUCF sector activities for the EU and each individual Member State.

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PDF iconLULUCF1.18 MB

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Most recent publications

Return of the trees

By Fred Pearce

To have a fair chance of limiting global temperature rise to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius, it will be necessary to remove at least 500 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. The best way to do this is to work with local communities to restore degraded forest ecosystems. As this report shows, this is entirely possible. 

It must, however, go hand in hand with halting forest loss and reducing fossil fuel consumption. Not instead of. Governments around the world have made pledges such as the Bonn Challenge to support restoration and reforestation projects, but even if the Bonn challenge is successful it would only remove 50 billion tonnes, 10 per cent of what is needed.

Community-led forest restoration helps fight climate change

December 19, 2017 (Brussels) - Restoring natural biologically diverse forests could remove 500 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, making a significant impact in the fight agai

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PDF iconReturn of the Trees PR.pdf114.48 KB

How the Fiji UN climate summit affects forests

Kate Dooley was in Bonn, tracking the developments in the UN climate summit. She has written this overview of the talks from a forests perspective for Fern. 

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PDF iconComment COP23.pdf1.17 MB

While climate change wreaks havoc, airlines hide plans to double emissions behind a widely discredited scheme.

By Julia Christian

In Bonn last month delegates from around the world discussed how to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement  – which aims to tackle the greatest threat currently facing the planet.

At exactly the same time almost 6,000 kilometres away in Montreal, representatives from the global aviation industry were hell-bent on undermining the Agreement’s aims.

The absurd scenario simultaneously playing out in different meeting rooms on different continents can be traced back to the 1997 climate talks in Kyoto.

Unearned credit: Why aviation industry forest offsets are doomed to fail

Unlike other sectors, international aviation is not included in 2015’s Paris Agreement. This has allowed aviation to lag behind other sectors when it comes to reducing emissions.

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PDF iconfern_unearned credit.pdf1.88 MB

Airlines’ ‘action’ on climate change means doubling emissions

This press release exposes the flaws in the airline industry’s plans to offset its carbon emissions. It is also available in German.

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PDF iconICAO final.pdf467.91 KB
PDF iconICAO Fern PR_DE.pdf585.14 KB

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