Brief Analysis of the EU Proposal for Rules and Action Plans on GHG emissions and removals from LULUCF

Under the context of reducing the greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, one of the most discussed measures are those related to land use, land use change and forestry. The Kyoto Protocol, the main current international agreement for GHG emissions, covers a very narrow scope of this topic, focusing on the afforestation and reforestation activities contributing for the emissions’ reduction targets, even though the  Decision -/CMP.7 taken in Durban during the 17th Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC resulted in some progress. The main barrier for including other activities in international agreements is still the methodology used to account the emissions or removals promoted by them. In this sense, last March 12th, European Commission released a “Proposal for a Decision of The European Parliament and of The Council on accounting rules and action plans on greenhouse gas emissions and removals resulting from activities related to land use, land use change and forestry”. The document assigns a very important role to LULUCF on tackling climate change, aligned with other policies already in force in the region, such as the 20% reduction of GHG emissions by 2020. Although European Union’s emissions basically stem from energy production rather than land activities, “appropriate land uses and management practices in forestry and agriculture can limit emissions of carbon and enhance removals from the atmosphere”. (pg 3)

The proposal was created through the creation of an expert group, supported by a public consultation and an impact assessment, which considered three alternatives for including  LULUCF in the Union’s commitments: LULUCF as part of the ESD, as a separate framework or by delaying inclusion altogether. The key issues investigated by the impact assessment were:

The results of this assessment indicated that there are good reasons to include LULUCF in the GHG emission-reduction commitments. The more appropriate scheme seems to be a separate legal framework, setting rules for a mandatory accounting of emissions and removals from both forestry and agricultural activities, and giving equal weight to mitigation action irrespective of whether it was taken in the forestry, agriculture, related industries or energy sectors. Therefore, the proposal represents the first approach to robust and comprehensive accounting rules for LULUCF, which should support future policy development towards the inclusion of LULUCF in the Union’s commitments.

Since it’s a trans-boundary issue, the Subsidiarity and the Proportional Principles underlie the proposal. The GHG involved in the accountability are CO₂, CH₄ and N₂0 resulting from the following activities: afforestation, reforestation, deforestation, forest management, cropland management and grazing land management.

To conclude, it’s clear that LULUCF must be included in the international GHG emission-reduction commitments. But the main constraints are still the methodology used to account the emissions or removals and the monitoring process. Although the European Commission’s proposal sets ground rules and guidelines to support related policies, it doesn’t address properly those challenges.

Reference:

European Commission 2012/0042 (COD) of 12 March 2012. Proposal for a DECISION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on accounting rules and action plans on greenhouse gas emissions and removals resulting from activities related to land use, land use change and forestry.

 


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