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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:

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.

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.

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.



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.

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