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Press release

Calling a halt to climate change - European research centre stage in Marrakech -


Brussels, 15 November 2001

Key words: global change, greenhouse effect, carbon sinks, Kyoto protocol

Coinciding with the United Nations' Marrakech climate talks which started on 29 October 2001 and which are planned to finalise the Kyoto rulebook, EU sponsored projects have just published a report on an independent method to verify the amount of greenhouse gasses taken up by forests and by the soil, the so-called carbon sinks. This method is vital to ensure that the agreements on carbon sinks reached during the last conference of the parties in Bonn can be controlled. EU sponsored research into atmospheric carbon dioxide levels has been ongoing since the early 1990ies. A major cluster of eight research projects, worth EUR 30 million (half of which from the EU budget) launched in the year 2000, is designed to continue and intensify earlier activities. The project cluster called CarboEurope has already proved to be an extraordinary source of data and information about carbon balances in Europe and beyond and can be expected to have a fundamental impact on the implementation of the Kyoto protocol.

The 1997 Kyoto protocol was instrumental in intensifying world-wide research efforts aimed at the development of a better understanding of speed and scope of climate change and the design of concepts and approaches helping to combat the overall trend.

Commenting on the findings of the said report research Commissioner Philippe Busquin said: "We have now scientific evidence that almost one third of the industrial carbon emissions in Europe are absorbed by the European biosphere and there is a great potential of increasing this sink capacity by improved and sustainable management of European forestry and agriculture. European research activities, such as the CarboEurope project, have again proved to be vitally important tools for policy-making - in the field of environmental protection as much as in other areas".

The main findings of European carbon cycle research has been presented in Marrakech on 7 November 2001 can be summarised as follows:

  • The European biosphere is a carbon sink that can absorb about 20-30% of the annual European carbon emissions.
  • The European biosphere has additional potential to absorb carbon emissions through afforestation projects and improved management methods. This is an important message, since sinks can be used in part to fulfil the reduction commitments as laid down in the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The carbon sink of the terrestrial biosphere can now be scientifically measured and should allow for the implementation of an independent carbon verification system by the year 2012.
  • The future of the biospheric carbon sink is not safe. By 2050 European research groups expect that the carbon sink will attain a saturation level, declining thereafter.

The CarboEurope cluster and its partners worldwide involves 190 senior scientists plus 200 young researchers from 75 European institutions in all Member States, with activities also in Brazil and Siberia. It comprises a multidisciplinary, fully integrated framework for the co-ordination of ongoing carbon research in Europe, disseminating results to a wide-range of stakeholders, including industry and forestry.

The cluster is now regarded as a "template" for world research on the carbon cycle, with the US, Japan and China all launching similar initiatives. "At present, Europe is leading this area of research", explains Professor Valentini from the "Università degli studi della Tuscia" who played a crucial role in setting-up the CarboEurope cluster. "It is strategically important for us to maintain that leadership, also because of the policy implications of the Kyoto Climate Convention for European society. CarboEurope results were critical in achieving agreement on sinks at COP6-bis in Bonn in July 2001".


For further information please contact:

Claus Brüning, Biodiversity and Global Change Unit, Research Directorate-General
Tel: +032-2-295.44.84, Fax : +32-2-296.30.24,
E-mail :

Julia Acevedo, Communication and Information Unit, Research Directorate-General
Tel 32-2-295.20.43, Fax 32 2 295.82.20,



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