The European Union (EU) has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050. This will require us to both drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to increase carbon dioxide removals – negative emissions.
This briefing shows why the biodiversity and climate debates need to come together like never before, and how that is possible. It demonstrates that the cheapest, most effective, and most readily available way to remove carbon dioxide is to protect and restore European forests and other natural ecosystems.
It also lays out the main issues EU forests are currently facing: they are being degraded and are losing their capacity to suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere because of increased harvesting. This is in part due to EU financial incentives to burn wood for energy.
Biodiverse forests can help tackle the climate crisis. In addition to storing more carbon, natural biodiverse forests are more resilient to the natural disturbances that will increase due to the climate crisis (such as storms, pests, diseases and droughts.) This is because the more complex and diverse a system is, the less fragile it is to shocks.
The EU should prioritise the following activities over simple tree-planting:
- Preserving the few remaining old-growth forests
- Restoring the health of over-harvested forests
- Diversifying the age and species mix of plantations.
This briefing also makes recommendations for EU policy initiatives including: the EU Climate law, the Biodiversity Strategy, the Forest Strategy and the review of climate policies for 2030.