The year 2017 was heavy with news of record high temperatures and forest fires, but also with international and EU policy developments on climate and forests. In 2018, the EU and other countries will have an opportunity to ramp up climate action – but they must take meaningful steps to seize it.
The Talanoa Dialogue, a United Nations process, urges countries to revise their pledges and aim for higher ambition. Also in the international context, the agenda foresees the conclusion of negotiations on the Paris rulebook; this will offer guidance about how to deal with the land use sector, including forests. It remains to be seen whether the recently finalised EU position on the LULUCF Regulation will encourage other countries to make sure their sinks are maintained – or even enhanced – as is necessary to limit warming to 1.5˚C degrees.
In October 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change will urge countries to raise the bar with the launch of its “1.5˚C report”. Based on a leaked version, the role of carbon removals from the atmosphere will be significant, putting the spotlight on forests.
In the EU, in addition to ongoing negotiations concerning the Governance Regulation and the Renewable Energy Directive, the Commission will be revising the EU Forest Strategy, the EU Bioeconomy Strategy and the Common Agricultural Policy – all of which have a considerable impact on forests. The role of forests in the EU energy and climate policy will be further defined in the review of 2050 decarbonisation road map of the EU and National Energy and Climate Plans of Member States.
With all of these, the question remains: will the emphasis be put on protecting and restoring natural forests and their potential to cool the climate by pulling carbon from the atmosphere, or on more exploitation?