Land Use, Land Use Change & Forestry (LULUCF) & Sustainable Carbon Cycles (SCC)

As part of the Fit for 55 package, the Commission published on 14 July 2021:

– Communication on the Revision of the Regulation on the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) (COM(2021)554);

– Communication on the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) (COM(2021)555).

The Commission is proposing to revise LULUCF aiming at providing more incentives for Member States to grow and improve their natural carbon sinks in line with the European Climate Law. The Commission proposes therefore to move towards a more integrated policy framework covering activities related to agriculture, forestry, and land use (AFOLU), under one climate policy tool beyond 2030.

The Commission is proposing to put in place binding targets for Member States to increase their net carbon removals in the land use and forestry sector for the period from 2026 to 2030 and to significantly simplify compliance rules. The new EU-wide target will add up to net carbon removals of -310 Mt of CO2 equivalent in the Union for 2030, an increase of about 15% compared to today.

The Commission proposals recall that higher targets for carbon removals will promote a shift towards more sustainable, long-lasting and circular uses of natural resources, leading to jobs and growth in this sector. The storage of carbon in long-lasting wood products – like construction material or furniture – will be favoured through the biomass cascading principle rewarded and counted towards the national carbon removal targets. According to the Commission, 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. The proposal introduces a more explicit pathway towards new products (construction/furniture materials and others) and re-direct the sense of the Article 9 to act as a chapeau for carbon removal/farming certification, encapsulating harvested wood products as one such example. In this respect, an improved incentive framework (Delegated Act) for the storage of carbon in long-lasting and circular use wood products, is proposed.

On 15 December 2021, the Commission adopted its

Communication on Sustainable Carbon Cycles COM(2021)800 alongside 2 Staff Working Documents (SWD).

These set out how to increase removals of carbon from the atmosphere. To balance out the impacts of our CO2 emissions, the EU will need to drastically reduce its reliance on fossil carbon, upscale carbon farming to store more carbon in nature, and promote industrial solutions to sustainably and verifiably remove and recycle carbon. Removing and storing more carbon, from the atmosphere, oceans and coastal wetlands, is essential to achieve the EU’s legally binding commitment to become climate neutral by 2050.

Carbon farming:

  • By 2030, carbon farming initiatives should contribute 42Mt of CO2 storage to Europe’s natural carbon sinks. Measures to achieve this goal include: promoting carbon farming practices under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and other EU programmes such as LIFE and Horizon Europe’s research mission, and through national public financing and private finance & standardising the monitoring, reporting and verification methodologies needed to provide a clear and reliable certification framework for carbon farming, allowing for developing voluntary carbon markets.
  • Carbon farming practices include (amongst others): afforestation, reforestation & agroforestry.

Industrial sustainable carbon:

  • By 2028, any ton of CO2 captured, transported, used and stored by industries should be reported and accounted from its origin; by 2030, at least 20% of the carbon used in products should come from sustainable non-fossil sources; and by 2030 5Mt of CO2 should be annually removed from the atmosphere and permanently stored through technological solutions.
  • By the end of 2022, the Commission proposed an EU regulatory framework for the certification of carbon removals based on robust and transparent carbon accounting rules and requirements to monitor and verify the authenticity and environmental integrity of high-quality sustainable carbon removals. Such rules provide the necessary legal framework to scale up carbon farming and industrial solutions removing carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Climate mitigation benefit of bio-based products can be optimised by increasing the proportion of material use (especially for long-lived products) in total biomass uses through the application of the cascading principle.
  • Improving the climate performance of buildings is seen as an opportunity for the bioeconomy, by being able to reduce overall emissions of the construction sector while storing substantial amounts of carbon, as set out in the Renovation Wave Strategy and the new European Bauhaus initiative.
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