Agriculture & Forestry Emissions

Forestry and agricultural activities are the major remaining sectors not governed by common EU-wide greenhouse-gas emission rules.
 
Before these sectors can be incorporated into the EU’s green-house gas reduction efforts, however, a way of “accounting” for their emissions is needed.
 
The European Commission has now proposed a set of rules for doing this, applicable to land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF).

Proposal for a Decision

The Proposal is in line with the outcome of the international negotiations in Durban. It also complements the post-2013 Common Agricultural Policy with regard to implementing the ‘greening components’.

One significant difference with Durban, however, is the inclusion of the treatment of natural disturbances on agricultural soils in the proposal. The proposed Decision: 
1. Would apply to the same accounting activities, including the newly established activity Wetland Drainage and Rewetting 
2. Would set out the same crediting rules for activities, such as the reference level for standing forests 
3. Would allow exemptions from accounting obligations concerning significant effects caused by natural disturbances on emissions from forest or agricultural soils. Natural disturbance is a natural event which causes trees to fall, burn or die, or carbon from agricultural soils to be released
4. Would not include a cap that would result in the exclusion of debits above a certain level

Accounting for LULUCF would therefore support the sustainable use of bio-energy and would also provide a clear and visible indicator of progress in agriculture and forestry to reach the EU’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Categories of Activity Covered

According to the proposal, Member States are required to draw up accounts for all emissions and removals resulting from the activities on their territory for the following categories of activity:

1. Afforestation: converting land which has not been forest for at least 50 years to forest
2. Reforestation: converting land which has not been forest since 1990 to forest
3. Deforestation: conversion of forest land to other types of land
4. Forest management: storing carbon in existing forests through longer rotation periods of trees
5. Cropland management: land set aside or temporarily not being used for crop production
6. Grazing land management: controlling the quantity and type of vegetation and livestock produced
7. Revegetation: increase vegetation where it does not constitute afforestation or reforestation
8. Wetland drainage and rewetting: lowering the soil water table and the partial or total reversal of drainage

Accounting Rules

General accounting rules

Member States have to designate these categories of activity by a positive (+) sign and sinks by the negative (-) sign. If these emissions and removals fall within one or more categories, they will be accounted for, under one category.

Any change in the carbon stock for carbon pools in above-ground biomass, below-ground biomass, litter, dead wood, soil organic carbon and harvested wood products has to be referred to in these accounts, unless the carbon pool is not a declining sink or a source based on transparent and verifiable data. The accounts will cover emissions and removals of the following greenhouse gases: (a) carbon dioxide (CO2); (b) methane (CH4) and (c) nitrous oxide (N2O).

Afforestation, reforestation and deforestation

Accounting rules for afforestation, reforestation and deforestation activities will have to represent the total removals and emissions from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020 (Annex 1). When methane and nitrous oxide emissions are included, these emissions need to represent the total emissions from 2013 to 2020 by summing up the emissions occurring in each year, on the basis of transparent and verifiable data. When the carbon pools concerns ‘litter’, Member States have to continue to draw up and maintain accounts that reflect emissions and removals from land even where such activity is no longer conducted on that land. 

Forest management

Accounting rules for forest management have to be calculated as emissions and removals from the period 2013 to 2020 minus the value obtained by multiplying the years from that accounting period by the reference level of gigagrams of CO2 equivalents per year per specific Member State (Annex 2). If the result of this calculation is negative, Member States have to include the total emissions and removals of no more than the equivalent of 3.5% of a Member State’s emissions in its base year in their forest management accounts.

These calculation methods have to include carbon pools and greenhouse gases, the area under forest management, the harvested wood products and natural disturbances. Before the end of 2021 Member States have to communicate to the Commission the proposed revised reference levels.

Harvested wood products

Accounting rules for harvested wood products have to be calculated from lands covering all categories of activity. If these products contain carbon they have to be reflected in a Member State’s account on 1 January 2013, even where such products were harvested prior to this date. Calculations should be in accordance with the first order decay function and the default half-life values of paper, wood panels and sawn wood (Annex 3) which can be country specific.

When CO2 emissions from either harvested wood products in solid waste disposal sites or emissions harvested for energy purposes are included, Member States need to use the ‘instantaneous oxidation method’ which includes the release into the atmosphere of the entire quantity of carbon stored in these products. 
 
Cropland management, grazing land management, revegetation, and wetland drainage and rewetting

Accounting rules for cropland management, grazing land management, revegetation, and wetland drainage and rewetting have to be calculated as emissions and removals from the period 2013 to 2020 minus the value obtained by multiplying the years from that accounting period by a Member State’s emissions and removals resulting from such activities in its base year. Regarding lands that have been drained or rewetted, emissions and removals since 1990 have to be included.

Natural disturbances

Accounting rules for natural disturbances may exclude non-anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions as long as they were not included in the proposed revised reference levels, and in a single year did not exceed 5% of the total emissions of a Member State in its base year. If these greenhouse gas emissions are not included, then also any subsequent removals on lands where those natural disturbances have occurred have to be excluded.

For this to happen, the following conditions need to be met:

1. The geographical location, year and types of natural disturbances were identified
2. The annual non-anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were estimated
3. No land-use change had occurred on the excluded land areas
4. Measures to manage or control the impact of the natural disturbances or to rehabilitate the excluded land areas were undertaken
5. Emissions resulting from harvested wood products recovered by salvage logging, were not excluded from accounting 

 LULUCF Action Plans

Member States are required to draft and submit a LULUCF Action Plan to limit or reduce emissions and maintain or increase removals resulting from the activities within six months after the beginning of each accounting period as specified in Annex I to the proposal.

The Action Plans are needed to:

1. Ensure that Member States include LULUCF in their wider climate change mitigation strategies
2. Raise awareness and profile of such measures and their benefits
3. Enable a follow-up of trends in emissions and removals of carbon in the sector
4. Complement and balance national renewable energy action plans and develop incentive structures, especially in light of the future Common Agricultural Policy 
Communication on LULUCF

The Communication outlines how the LULUCF sector could be progressively integrated in the EU's climate policy. As a first step, it is proposed to establish common accounting, monitoring and reporting rules from both forestry and agricultural activities while also giving equal weight to mitigation action.

The second step would be to formally include LULUCF in the EU's greenhouse gas reduction target by requiring Member States to prepare LULUCF Action Plans. The Commission suggests taking this step when the Member States have first implemented the accounting framework and it has proven to be successful.

Next Steps

The proposed Decision will be sent to the European Parliament and the Council for examination, following the ordinary legislative procedure.

The Communication will also be sent to both institutions for considerartion.