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Energy Union Governance Regulation: Europe’s opportunity to set a negative emissions target

Countries need to start coming up with numbers for how much carbon they will remove from the atmosphere, argues an article published in Nature (August 2017). Authors Glen Petersen and Oliver Gedden point out that all trajectories for limiting global warming to the Paris Agreement target of “well below 2˚C” depend on large quantities of negative emissions: removing carbon from the atmosphere. Yet there has been little discussion around how these negative emissions will be generated, and by whom.

Europe has a key opportunity to start deciding how it will generate negative emissions its proposed Energy Union Governance Regulation, is currently under negotiation in the European Parliament and European Council. The Governance Regulation will put in place the EU’s framework for implementing its Paris Agreement commitments. In particular, it offers the space for a long-term target to bring down the EU’s emissions (articles 1 and 14).

This must include targets to generate negative emissions by restoring Europe’s forests, the cheapest and most readily available tool we have.

Discussions in the European Parliament’s Environment and Energy Committees – which are leading the drafting of the Parliament’s position on the Regulation – have been promising. Parties from across the political spectrum including the centre-right European Peoples’ Party (EPP), the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats party (S&D) have put forward language around a long-term target to increase the EU’s forests. 

These submissions must now be put together in a text, which will be voted on by Members of the European Parliament in the Energy and Environment Committees on 28 November 2017.