The EU has agreed on a long-term goal of achieving “negative emissions” – pulling more carbon out of the atmosphere than it puts in. The decision was made on 20 June 2018, when the European Parliament and Council provisionally agreed a deal on the Energy Union Governance Regulation.
The Regulation defines EU energy and climate targets through 2030, allowing the EU to meet its Paris Agreement commitments. The agreement is an important step forward, as it recognises that the EU must remove emissions as part of global efforts to limit climate change to well below 2˚C, pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5˚C.
The only safe way to do this is to increase the amount of carbon its land and forests absorb.
Unfortunately, the EU’s land and forests policy framework is not fit for purpose. The combined impact of the EU’s new Renewable Energy Directive (FW 236) and LULUCF Regulation (FW 236) – both also agreed this year – will be to increase logging levels and thus reinforce the trend of EU forests absorbing less and less carbon. Currently, the EU’s own projections show EU forests absorbing half as much carbon by 2050 as they were at the beginning of this century.
Scientists calculate that, to stay within the Paris limits, EU forests’ carbon absorption must double. The EU is now preparing its mid-century decarbonisation strategy, which sets out a vision for how the EU will decarbonise its economy between now and 2050; it hopes to have a draft ready before the December 2018 UN climate conference in Poland. This must show how to manage EU forests and land differently, or the bleak climate maths simply will not add up.