EU reneges on emissions reduction target by including LULUCF

26 March 2015

Often an issue left to technical experts, Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) made headlines in Brussels at the Environment Council in March when Member States disagreed how it should be included in the EU’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). The EU is required to deliver its INDC in preparation for the next international climate summit in Paris, December 2015. NGOs were concerned when EU Environment Ministers confirmed that the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of -40 per cent by 2030 would include the LULUCF sector. However, the ministers remained vague about how this would be accomplished, stating only that policy incorporating LULUCF into the 2030 greenhouse gas mitigation framework “will be established as soon as technical conditions allow and in any case before 2020.”

Member State disagreement surrounds the fact that, depending on how LULUCF is included in the EU’s -40 per cent target and which accounting rules are applied, that EU target could be significantly weakened – by between 2.4 and 5 per cent, according to different sources, though it could be more depending on the policy incentive it sends to increase tree planting. Member States hoping for a higher target (and more ambition) either did not favour including LULUCF at all, or advocated that it be added ‘on top of’ the -40 per cent target, in order to cancel out LULUCF’s sink effect. However, countries with large diffuse emissions, such as France and Ireland, advocated for the sector’s inclusion without mention of the need to ‘maintain the environmental integrity’ of the target, leading to the compromise in the final INDC. Since terrestrial and fossil carbon are fundamentally different, Fern believes their emissions cannot be considered interchangeable (FW201), and is in favour of dealing with LULUCF emissions separately to avoid them weakening ambition.

The LULUCF stakeholder consultation, to be launched in the coming weeks, will be critical in deciding further details about the issue; stakeholders will have a chance to provide their input into how the sector should be included to ensure it does not weaken the impetus to make reductions of industrial emissions.

On a more positive note, the ministers gathered at the EU’s Environment Council confirmed that the EU’s target would not include the use of international carbon credits – meaning purchase of REDD+ credits is currently ruled out – putting emphasis on domestic emissions reductions.

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