Commission proposes to improve common greenhouse gas accounting rules for forestry and agriculture

In adopting a new proposal on accounting of greenhouse gases emissions, the European Commission has taken a first step towards incorporating removals and emissions from forests and agriculture into the EU’s climate policy.

The proposed Decision establishes accounting rules for greenhouse gas emissions and removals in the forest and agriculture sectors, the last major sectors without common EU-wide rules.

Forests and agricultural lands cover more than three-quarters of the EU territory and naturally hold large stocks of carbon, preventing its escape into the atmosphere, which makes them important for the climate policy. Increasing this ‘trapped’ carbon by just 0.1 percentage point – for example through improved forest or grassland management – would remove the annual emissions of 100 million cars from the atmosphere.

Yet until now, the efforts of farmers and forest owners and their good practice aimed at securing carbon stored in forests and soils, have not been or only been partly recognised. The reason for this has been the challenges that come with collecting robust carbon data from forests and soils and the lack of common rules on how to account for emissions and removals. Now, following the decision of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on revised accounting rules from soils and forests adopted in December 2011, the EU is determined to close the gap in common accounting in its climate policy. This will provide new opportunities, for instance, to reward farmers for their contribution in the fight against climate change in the context of the common agricultural policy.

Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard said: “What we propose today is harmonised rules to account for forests and agricultures emissions. This is the first step to incorporate these sectors into the EU’s reduction efforts. In Durban all countries agreed revised accounting rules for these sectors. The EU is now delivering with this proposal. The proposal will also contribute to protect biodiversity and water resources, support rural development and have a more climate-friendly agriculture.”

What next?

The proposed Decision for harmonised rules for the accounting of greenhouse gas emissions and removals in forests and soils will be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council under the ordinary legislative procedure. With the proposal also comes the obligation for each Member State to adopt action plans on how they will increase removals of carbon and decrease emissions of greenhouse gases in forests and soils throughout the EU. The proposal does not include a commitment for national emission reduction targets for these sectors. This may come later once the accounting rules have proven robust

More information at: EC DG Clima


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