A letter written by Environment Ministers from 10 Member States could undermine the effectiveness of the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD), the EU’s most important instrument to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The letter to Commissioner Hogan, in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, requests that countries be allowed to use credits from emissions saved from forest management in order to reduce the binding greenhouse gas emissions targets they are accountable for under the ESD.
Carbon sequestration from forests is currently excluded from the ESD. This position came about after taking into account scientific evidence showing that forest carbon cannot replace fossil carbon. Removal of carbon dioxide by trees is temporary and does not compensate for the release of carbon dioxide by fossil fuel, which is permanent.
The letter signed, among others, by ministers from Austria, Finland, Romania and Sweden states that they deserve credits since they practice sustainable forest management. Yet all foresee increased logging in their forests in coming decades.
This matters because the EU is in the process of developing rules for how to account for the land sector. Under current rules for LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry), increased logging is allowed since emissions from forestry are measured using ‘business as usual’ scenarios as a baseline.
There is also a danger that LULUCF could be used as an excuse to not reduce greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors due to the claim that these emissions are absorbed by forests. To stop this from happening, LULUCF needs to be assigned its own separate long-term target. This will ensure that emissions in the land use sector are made as well as, not instead of, emissions in the other sectors.