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LULUCF in the EU

LULUCF (Land use, Land Use Change and Forestry) covers greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere and removal of carbon from the atmosphere resulting from our use of soils, trees, plants, biomass and timber. Forests and agricultural lands currently cover more than three-quarters of the EU territory and naturally hold large stocks of carbon, preventing its escape into the atmosphere. Whereas: draining of peat land, felling of forest or ploughing up grassland generates emissions; rewetting of organic soils, afforestation, conversion of arable land into grassland can result in protection of carbon stocks or even carbon sequestration.

 

The efforts of farmers and forest owners and their good practices for securing carbon stored in forests and soils have only partly been included in international agreements primarly due to the difficulty of collecting robust carbon data from forests and soils and the lack of common rules on how to account for emissions and removals.

Working towards harmonised EU-wide emission accounting rules and common targets

In the light of a decision by UNFCCC parties in December 2011 to revise accounting rules for GHG emissions and removals from soils and forests, the Council and the European Parliament adopted a decision to harmonise accounting rules for these emissions and removals across the EU.

This initiative is a first step towards incorporating agriculture and forestry - the last major sectors without common EU-wide rules on GHG - into the EU's emission-reduction efforts.

Valley covered with forest © Stockbyte

The LULUCF accounting systems will help to strengthen the capacity of forests and agricultural soils to preserve and capture CO2 in a sustainable manner. They will better recognise the efforts of forest owners, farmers and practices aimed at securing carbon stored in forests and soils.

The EU decision also requires Member States to prepare actions to increase removals and decrease emissions of GHG from activities related to forestry and agriculture.

The legislation requires that Member States include grassland management and cropland management in their accounts. This will enhance the overall environmental integrity of GHG accounting in the EU by making it more complete. Accounting for the draining and rewetting of wetlands will remain voluntary, as in the international context.

The EU decision does not set a target for emission reductions in the LULUCF sector. Instead, progress will be made on improving the accounting systems by Member States.The Commission will consider whether to propose GHG targets for agriculture and forestry sectors once the accounting systems have proven that they are robust and effective.