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Climate Action

Land use and forestry regulation for 2021-2030

On 14 July 2021, the European Commission adopted a series of legislative proposals setting out how it intends to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, including the intermediate target of an at least 55% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The package proposes to revise several pieces of EU climate legislation, including the EU ETS, Effort Sharing Regulation, transport and land use legislation, setting out in real terms the ways in which the Commission intends to reach EU climate targets under the European Green Deal.

Under current EU legislation adopted in May 2018, EU Member States have to ensure that accounted greenhouse gas emissions from land use, land use change or forestry are balanced by at least an equivalent accounted removal of CO2 from the atmosphere in the period 2021 to 2030.

The LULUCF Regulation implements the agreement between EU leaders in October 2014 that all sectors should contribute to the EU's 2030 emission reduction target, including the land use sector.

It is also in line with the Paris Agreement, which points to the critical role of the land use sector in reaching our long-term climate mitigation objectives.

EU's commitment

The Regulation sets a binding commitment for each Member State to ensure that accounted emissions from land use are entirely compensated by an equivalent accounted removal of CO2 from the atmosphere through action in the sector. This is known as the “no debit” rule.

Although Member States already partly undertook this commitment individually under the Kyoto Protocol up to 2020, the Regulation enshrines the commitment for the first time in EU law for the period 2021-2030.

Moreover, the scope is extended from only forests today to all land uses (including wetlands by 2026).

The new rules provide Member States with a framework to incentivise more climate-friendly land use, without imposing new restrictions or red tape on individual actors.

This will help farmers to develop climate-smart agriculture practices and support foresters through greater visibility for the climate benefits of wood products, which can store carbon sequestered from the atmosphere and substitute for emission-intensive materials.

Biomass

Emissions of biomass used in energy will be recorded and accounted towards each Member State's 2030 climate commitments, through the correct application of accounting in LULUCF.

This breakthrough addresses the earlier broad criticism that emissions from biomass in energy production were not accounted for under previous EU law.

As forest management is the main source of biomass for energy and wood production, more robust accounting rules and governance for forest management will provide a solid basis for Europe's future renewables policy after 2020.

Improved accounting methodology

The LULUCF Regulation

  • simplifies and upgrades the current accounting methodology under Decision No 529/2013/EU and the Kyoto Protocol
  • establishes a new EU governance process for monitoring how Member States calculate emissions and removals from actions in their forests
  • broadens the scope of accounting to cover all managed land within the EU, using more recent benchmarks for performance – and thereby improving accuracy of the accounts.

Forest reference levels

In October 2020, the Commission amended the existing LULUCF legislation with a delegated act setting forest reference levels (FRLs) that each country must apply between 2021 and 2025.

Forest reference levels are forward-looking benchmarks for accounting net emissions from the existing forests in each EU country. They are based on a continuation of sustainable forest management practices from the period 2000-2009. They draw on the best available data and take into account dynamic age-related forest characteristics.

Ensuring fair and cost-effective achievement of targets

The Regulation allows some flexibility for Member States.

For instance, if a Member State has net accounted emissions from land use and forestry, they can use allocations from the Effort Sharing Regulation to satisfy the "no debit" commitment.

Moreover, Member States can buy and sell net accounted removals from and to other Member States. This can encourage Member States to increase CO2 removals beyond their own commitment.

On the other hand, a Member State may choose to enhance removals or reduce emissions in the LULUCF sector, thereby helping compliance of the agriculture sector in the Effort Sharing Regulation where emissions from fertilizer and livestock are accounted.

Stakeholder input

Stakeholders were involved at various stages in the development of this proposal.

Consultations were carried out in 2015, including:

Following these consultations and the analysis of EU climate policy targets for 2030, the Commission carried out an impact assessment.

The public had the possibility to provide feedback on the legislative proposal after it was adopted by the European Commission. A summary of the feedback was presented to the European Parliament and the Council.

To lay down Forest Reference Levels, the LULUCF Expert Group provided feedback and was consulted on the draft delegated act. The public provided views through the public feedback mechanism over four weeks in August and September.

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Legislative Proposal and Communication

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