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Open Letter: EU LULUCF rules will set an international precedent

Open letter sent to EU Commissioner for climate & energy Cañete, MEP Norbert Lins (LULUCF rapporteur in parliament) and Dr Herrera (Malta Presidency) 

The EU is in the process of deciding the accounting rules for land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) for the post-2020 period. The EU’s decision will have international significance.

To limit warming to 1.5 C, an objective set by the Paris Agreement, we need to reduce emissions as fast as possible and remove CO2 from the atmosphere by restoring natural sinks. Restoring natural sinks is not something we can leave to countries in the tropics: it does not provide enough negative emissions to reach our ambitious goals, and neither is it fair. We need bigger, healthier sinks everywhere, starting at home, in the EU.

This means that we need land and forest accounting rules that are fit for the post-Paris world; for a world that has chosen more ambitious climate commitments. These new rules face a simple test: do they incentivise an increase in the sink and count any reduction in the sink honestly.

As required by the Paris Agreement, countries must agree on new land use accounting rules by 2020. Since the EU is currently developing accounting rules for its LULUCF sector post-2020, it is fair to say that they have international significance because it is the first region to update LULUCF accounting rules post Paris, and is likely to influence how other countries do things.

According to data released by the European Commission, the EU’s sink will decline in the next decades, mainly, though not exclusively, due to an increase in harvesting, in part to meet increased demand for bioenergy. The reduction in the forestry sink between now and 2030 is estimated at almost 100MT, equivalent to the emissions of 100million more cars on the road.

It is crucial that the EU’s accounting rules account honestly for any decrease in forest sinks. Not only is this important in order to measure our impact on the atmosphere, but it should – and indeed already has – triggered serious conversations in Member States over whether the forest and decarbonisation strategies they are undertaking are the best ones for the climate.

Counting emissions from a decrease in forest sinks is also crucial because emissions from bioenergy are meant to be accounted for when wood is harvested; in return it benefits from a ‘zero emissions’ rating when it is burnt. This was a recommendation of the IPCC to avoid double-counting, but if emissions are not accurately accounted for in the LULUCF regulation then these emissions are being counted no-where, once again cheating the climate.



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