Forest carbon accounting options discussed just before UNFCCC COP21
On 14-15 September, DG Climate Action organised a conference on the role of LULUCF in the 2030 EU Climate and Energy Framework, at which the stakeholder responses to the LULUCF public consultation got reviewed and discussed. CEPF was actively involved and contributed to the panel debate.

About 150 participants gathered at this conference to deepen and debate their views in presence of the European Commission on LULUCF and the specific accounting options in respect of the EU future climate regime.

The results of the stakeholder consultation were presented by the responsible Head of Unit, Peter Wehrheim from DG Clima, in which he emphasised that from the 140 responses none of the three outlined accounting options – the LULUCF pillar, the land use sector pillar or the effort sharing approach – got clearly favoured by any majority. In fact, for all options, the specific rules, as yet not specified, on flexibility, accounting and target setting will influence any advantages and disadvantages they may have.

Furthermore he outlined that the current forest management reference levels are seen as a reasonable approach by most Member States and that active forest management and an increased mobilisation and use of wood as ways to improve mitigation has been strongly underlined by the forest and rural sector related organisations. In this context, the need for a strengthened competitiveness of the forest sector and clear political incentives for additional mitigation actions have been emphasised.

From environmental NGOs side the aspect of conservation of carbon stocks, biodiversity and enhanced mitigation has been often mentioned. Furthermore, the environmental NGOs expressed strong concerns considering the expected increased bioenergy/biomass use and called for strong legally binding biomass sustainability criteria. Also mentioned was that a flexibility between the LULUCF and other sectors might weaken the actual emission reduction efforts and targets in other sectors.

The summary presentation of the public consultation as presented by DG Clima at the conference can be seen below.

After the presentation of the results, a 1,5 hours panel debate followed in which CEPF was represented by the Secretary General Aljoscha Requardt. Bringing forward the position of private forest owners, he underlined that

"Europe’s forests (which cover 40% of the EUs land territory) and its based industry sector and products already do and will increasingly play a role towards the new ambitious EUs climate and energy targets. When developing a EU climate policy, and considering the different LULUCF options, it should to be kept in mind that deforestation and forest degradation are not a problem in Europe! Europe’s forests are growing in area and volume and there are numerous solid instruments in place to secure sustainable forest management at regional/national and EU level.

Wood as a key renewable raw material, which is sustainably produced, and which is a natural, re-usable and recyclable material, has an enormous potential to contribute positively to the climate mitigation targets. Therefore the focus should be on the sequestration, storage and substitution effects! Promoting substitution by producing and using more bio-/ wood-based products would help to secure an active, sustainable and productive forest management, maintain or even increase the forest sink as well as secure renewable raw material supply for numerous todays and tomorrows bio-/wood-based industries.

When talking about a EU climate policy, we should look into those options, which will help to further boost the forest growth and its use! Forest owners should be encouraged to aim for multifunctional, healthy and vital forests, with a high and sustainable productivity and an optimised increment and carbon sequestration rate – contributing to an economic viable forest sector. Setting aside forest land in order to aim for a certain carbon pool conservation is not an option!"

From CEPFs perspective, EUs climate policy should not directly or indirectly regulate the forest growth and harvesting rates, and its productivity. No artificial and complicated accounting rules are needed. Whatever accounting rules will be developed and applied, they should a) reflect the actual forest potential, growth and sequestration rates; b) consider relevant time scales, such as the natural long-term life cycles of trees and forests; c) be simple and transparent and apply globally.

Considering the different accounting options outlined, CEPF favours to keep the LULUCF sector in a separate pillar. CEPF final position on this matter will be published in early November 2015.

The plenary session of the LULUCF conference was concluded by Yvon Slingenberg from the Cabinet of Commissioner Cañete and Mihail Dumitru the Deputy Director General  from DG AGRI.

A summary of the impact assessment and a first proposal for a LULUCF legislation are expected in early 2016.

The topic of forests and climate was further discussed at the ThinkForest event “Towards Paris 2015: How can the forest sector contribute?”in Brussels on 13 October. Professor Gert-Jan Nabuurs presented an upcoming EFI study highlighting the potential for Europe’s forests to contribute more to climate change mitigation. The study also emphasises that using the forest, including for bioenergy, is not in contradiction to having a large forest carbon sink, rather in opposite. From CEPF side, Emma Berglund contributed to the panel debate, again underlining CEPF’s views on this important topic as above stated.