Published Tuesday, 01 December 2015

The EU’s climate targets, land use, and forests: delivering biodiversity-friendly mitigation 

As the Paris climate summit gets under way, IEEP has prepared a report for the forest and rights NGO Fern, setting out proposals on how net emissions from land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) should be incorporated into the EU’s climate targets for 2030.

Different land use activities, both in forests and in agriculture, have impacts on the amount of carbon stored in ecosystems. Increasing the amount of carbon stored clearly has benefits for climate mitigation. However, there is much greater uncertainty about this impact than there is for, say, reducing emissions from fossil fuel power stations, or from cars. This is because measurement of the carbon stored or emitted from land and forests is more difficult, but also because increasing storage in ecosystems is temporary, and simply delays the point at which CO2 emissions reach the atmosphere.

Our report, “Designing a LULUCF pillar that works for forests and climate”, argues that this specific nature of the sector means that its carbon storage should not be used as an alternative to reducing emissions from other sectors, but should be a genuinely additional EU contribution to mitigation. That could be achieved either by setting targets for individual Member States’ improvement of their net carbon storage; or by setting a single target at EU level and adopting EU-wide regulatory and other measures to achieve it. Particular care will be needed to ensure that targets are met in ways which maximize the benefits for biodiversity, and which avoid potential environmental downsides.