Depending on the approach chosen, the EU’s upcoming legislation on emissions from land and forests could help to keep the EU climate ambition afloat, as shown by a new report commissioned by Fern and written by the Oeko-Institut to coincide with the Paris climate agreement signature ceremony in New York on 21 April.
The European Commission could choose an option to keep the land use and forestry sector separate from other emissions sectors in its calculations, with its own target. It could also significantly improve emissions accounting rules to ensure they have the highest environmental integrity.
The Commission has been under fire from Member States for failing to harness the momentum of the Paris Agreement on climate change. But the Fern report should help it raise the EU’s unambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030, using 1990 levels as its benchmark.
The current target was set in 2011; since then, the Paris Agreement has strengthened the global goal to limit temperature rises to well below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C, The EU is therefore obliged to revise its target to reflect this increased ambition.
Improved emissions accounting rules, and keeping calculations about the land use, land use change and forestry sector (LULUCF) separate from other emissions types would represent an important advance.
Previous research from the Oeko-Institut, commissioned by Fern and IFOAM, showed that incorporating LULUCF into overall EU emissions accounting could in fact reduce the target from the current 40 per cent to less than 37 per cent; a recent scandal in forest management accounting shows that it could even reduce the target to as low as 33 per cent.
This accounting sleight of hand could be avoided if LULUCF rules had greater environmental integrity. The report proposes specific improvements to the rules, including a long-term target for the sector and sufficient oversight by an independent third party.
Fern’s recommendations come just in time, as the European Commission has finalised the impact assessment of the upcoming decision on how to treat LULUCF emissions, and sent it to the Impact Assessment Board for scrutiny. The Commission’s proposal will be discussed in inter-service consultation at the end of May 2016, with a final decision due by the end of June or middle of July.