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What is LULUCF?

LULUCF stands for Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry. It is one of the sectors under the United Nations Framework on Climate Change that measures and accounts for emissions and removals of CO2 from land and forests. It is an essential part of EU climate policy which aims to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

LULUCF is an unusual sector in that it measures not just carbon releases, but also carbon removals. This is because when a tree grows it temporarily sequesters CO2, and when it dies or is removed, it releases the CO2 back into the atmosphere.

Across the EU, LULUCF presently removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases. This means it is a carbon sink. It also has the potential to remove more as they are presently far below their full carbon carrying capacity. But this potential can also be a danger because Member States mistakenly assume that CO2 removals can cancel out or ‘offset’ their emissions from other sectors.

This ignores the important fact that any CO2 removed by a tree is temporary whereas fossil fuel emissions stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years. If the EU allowed Member States to offset their emissions with LULUCF, it could reduce the EU’s target by more than 10 per cent and could lead to 1.35GT more CO2 in the atmosphere.