LULUCF: Parliament shows ambition where Commission was weak

5 May 2017

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have submitted amendments to the EU Regulation on land use and forests (LULUCF) which show an appetite to improve the Commission’s proposal.

The MEPs’ move to increase the LULUCF Regulation’s ambition is not surprising: currently the de facto target of the Commission’s proposed Regulation is to increase the EU’s carbon sink by ‘0 per cent’ – lamentable, given the scale of the climate challenge. There was support from almost all parties to make it mandatory to count carbon dioxide emissions and removals from wetlands. The Greens and the GUE (the left wing alliance) were in favour of supporting a key demand of NGOs, namely harmonising accounting rules to make them simple, transparent and comparable. The Greens, GUE and S&D(socialists and democrats) all emphasised that actions to increase the carbon content of land and forests must take the biodiversity impact into consideration.

As always, the accounting rules were hotly debated and a wide spectrum of amendments proposed. Some, including German EPP (the conservative alliance) members, the S&Ds, Greens and GUE would like to ensure that emissions generated from increased logging are accounted for as they happen; but others such as Finnish members of ALDE (the liberal alliance) and many EPP MEPs who are also in the AGRI committee believe that these emissions should not be counted as long as forests remain a net sink. The impact of forests on the climate cannot be measured without also measuring the extent to which forests are removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Honest accounting rules for forests are especially crucial as the EU relies on them to measure emissions from bioenergy rather than counting them when they are combusted. If the EU fails to account for the reduction in the sink that occurs when forests are harvested it will need to re-open other discussions such as whether bioenergy should be considered ‘zero emissions’ in the Emissions Trading System and Effort Sharing Regulation.

Photo: Finland's forest sector may be hiding it's climate impact

Credit: - Hannah Mowat

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