In a plenary vote on 8 October 2020, the European Parliament (EP) protected the European Union’s climate ambition by approving Jytte Guteland’s report on the EU Climate Law. The report endorses a 60 per cent emission reductions target, but keeps carbon removals and carbon sinks separate. In so doing, the EP rejected a recently updated Commission proposal that would have delivered significantly diminished results for the climate and people.
Importantly, where the Commission proposed, for 2030, “a reduction of net greenhouse gas emissions (emissions after deduction of removals) by at least 55 per cent” as compared to 1990, the Parliament noted that the target should be an “emissions reduction of 60 per cent”, meaning that the work of forests is additional to reductions in other sectors.
By keeping emissions reductions expected from industry clearly separate from passive carbon removals by land and forests, the Parliament’s proposal defends both climate ambition and transparency. Where already the accuracy of carbon accounting is fraught with uncertainty, combining the emissions target and the land target would have muddied the waters, opening the door to “reductions” by sleight of hand.
Fern Forest and Climate Campaigner Kelsey Perlman says, “The Parliament is standing up for higher ambition, as they know the EU can reduce emissions without resorting to tricks like forest offsetting. We agree with Executive Vice President Timmermans that we need a target for forests’ contribution to climate action, but mixing this with the emissions reductions target will make it harder to define the clear and urgent actions needed to reduce emissions.”
Significant reductions from industry and carbon removal by rehabilitated forests are both urgently needed, as the EP acknowledges here. Unfortunately, the EP did not reflect this position when voting on the EU Forestry Strategy the day before (FW 259).
Trialogue negotiations on the Climate Law will begin soon. The European Council is expected to discuss the 2030 climate target at the next meeting of heads of state, 15 - 16 October.