Today, the Agriculture committee will vote on its position on the so-called ‘LULUCF’ file. What is hiding behind this enigmatic acronym is the contribution of the agriculture and forest sectors to the reduction of climate change. Until now, they had been left out of the collective effort to reach the goals set up collectively by the world nations in the Paris agreement. It’s high time to make a change!
In summer last year, the European commission proposed to include land-use and land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) in the EU’s emission reduction efforts for 2030 so that this sector also contributes to achieve the EU’s commitment under the Paris agreement.
This regulation is of crucial importance and should aim at keeping and increasing carbon in the land and forests and make sure we avoid further emissions produced within this sector (soils, trees, plants, biomass, timber...). The next parties’ ‘nationally determined contributions’ (the climate action plans produced by countries to reduce their emissions under the UN climate process) will include forests and agricultural lands and the EU must therefore have a strong and ambitious position on this matter as its decision will not only impact the lands and forests in Europe, but also in other parts of the globe.
The LULUCF sector is a temporary carbon sink that releases its carbon stock when burned (forests) or ploughed (soils). Greenhouse gas emissions from land and forestry therefore needs a realistic “net-net” accounting: It is estimated that the release of just 0.1% of the carbon currently stored in European soils would equal the annual emissions from as much as 100 million cars!
With the Paris Agreement, world leaders agreed to limit global warming well below 2°C. In addition to a quick phase out of all fossil fuels, the EU must commit to another efficient, safe and also cost-effective way to remove further carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is to protect our forests and agricultural lands and other carbon sinks like peatlands so that they continue functioning as carbon sinks and not cancel out emissions from other sectors.
The EU must therefore be extremely cautious and ensure that the LULUCF accounting rules are effective. Giving permits to Members states to log too much can lead to massive loopholes in which countries will be able to submit increased projections of wood extraction, then actually chop down less trees and gain the difference in credits. In other words, they will be able to use these flexibilities instead of making further important cuts in other sectors such as in road transport, buildings etc..!
The Greens have for a long time put forward the many solutions that exist to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture sector such as protect carbon sinks, reduce livestock intensity and stop industrial scale factory farming, reduce meat consumption, increase crop rotation, ensuring healthy habitats while protecting biodiversity etc... All of these have a big positive impact on the quality of life and wellbeing of EU’s citizens. The sector is one of the only ones that have not played its part yet. It is now time to change this. The status quo is not an option!
How well are EU countries doing on LULUCF? See the NGO FERN’s ranking here