Today the European Commission released its revised 2030 Climate and Energy Package. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that burning forest biomass accelerates climate change and destroys biodiversity, the Commission ignored its own scientific advisers and proposed to keep incentivising the destruction of forests. This is the outcome of months of intense industry lobbying and internal wrangling within the European Commission.
The Commission has proposed removing financial incentives for burning wood such as sawn logs, tree roots and stumps, but fails to tackle the main problem - economic incentives to harvest and burn forest biomass. It also suggests no-go areas for extracting forest biomass, but since there is already a Commission proposal to protect such areas, this is not additional.
The Commission’s attempts at damage control signal its awareness of the problem, but none of its proposals will prevent the destruction from escalating. The increased renewable energy targets will encourage coal-fired power plants to continue with their planned switch to biomass.
The Commission also updated the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation, with an increased target for carbon dioxide removals, from 225 million tonnes (Mt) to 310 Mt. This is still well below the 600 Mt that scientists say could be achieved.
The Commission also hinted at incrementally integrating the LULUCF sector into the EU’s carbon market, post-2030. Creating such a market would mean that increased removals in the land sector would allow other sectors to delay their own reductions.
Over 15 years ago, the European Commission concluded that forest credits should not be included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), due to the possibility of market flooding and governance problems. The science hasn’t changed. The fossil carbon pool and atmospheric carbon pool remain separate; there are still huge uncertainties in data around forest carbon removals; and forest stocks continue to be impermanent.
The Fit for 55 package will now go to the European Parliament and the EU Council, the two EU co-legislators who need to adopt the text in similar terms, a process usually taking up to two years.