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
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,
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
Tel: +032-2-295.44.84, Fax : +32-2-296.30.24,
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Julia Acevedo, Communication and Information Unit, Research
Tel 32-2-295.20.43, Fax 32 2 295.82.20,