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© malp - stock.adobe.com

The EU has agreed on new climate targets for forests and soils up to 2030 during COP 27. To this end, the EU Land Use (LULUCF) Regulation has been adapted in the trilogue procedure between the Council and the European Parliament to meet the more ambitious EU climate target (at least 55% cut in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 1990).

The EU’s new climate target for forests and soils, in tandem with the other elements of the Fit for 55 package, now means that the EU can go further than its previous climate target. Rather than the previously announced 55% reduction in GHG emissions (from 1990) which had been communicated to the United Nations, 57% is now possible. In this way, the EU is placing its climate targets on a robust platform and living up to its role as a pioneer. The current legislative procedures for the Fit for 55 package need to be finished before the EU can formally announce a higher target.

State Secretary Sven Giegold (Economic Affairs and Climate Ministry):
“This is a good day for our efforts to mitigate climate change and a strong signal to COP 27. If we make good progress on cutting GHG in all the sectors, and particularly in the fields of transport and energy, we will actually be able to cut EU emissions by 57% by 2030, and thus overshoot our existing target. We now need to wrap up the negotiations on the remaining parts of Fit for 55, if possible before the end of the year. We will vigorously support the Czech presidency on this. An ambitious design for European emissions trading and the rigorous integration of the building and transport sectors are particularly important for climate change mitigation. There mustn’t be any loopholes here, but at the same time additional costs for households need to be imposed in a socially fair way. The Federal Government and the European Parliament have worked towards a high level of ambition and an effective enforcement of the obligations under the Paris agreement. The European Union is continuing its journey to tackle global warming despite the Russian aggression against Ukraine and other possible repercussions. We shan’t be put off course by Putin. Climate action is a matter of survival.”

State Secretary Stefan Tidow (Federal Environment Ministry):
“The agreement achieved in the trilogue on the LULUCF Regulation is an important success en route to increased ambition for the emission targets at EU level, and a strong signal for more nature-based solutions to climate change mitigation. It enables rewetted wetlands and natural forests to perform better in their natural role in the fight against global warming. This is a significant contribution towards targeted action to tackle climate change. We also find it particularly important that the compromise includes a steering mechanism to ensure the target is attained. We have consistently called for this in the negotiations.”

The Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) Regulation forms the legal framework for climate action in the land use sector. In the revised LULUCF Regulation, the EU is setting itself the target of improving the level of carbon capture in forests and soils by 310 million tonnes a year up to 2030. The target in the existing LULUCF Regulation is only 225 million tonnes. Latest figures show that the net capture of CO2 in the EU stands at around 268 million tonnes, but has been declining. The Regulation aims to reverse this trend.

The revised LULUCF Regulation contains an overarching EU target which is broken down amongst the Member States into binding national targets. The Member States themselves have to take the necessary steps to comply with these requirements. The Federal Government is currently coordinating the bulk of the measures Germany is to take in the period to 2030 in the Immediate Climate Action Programme and the Federal Action Plan on Nature-based Solutions for Climate and Biodiversity.

The land-use, land-use change and forestry sector is an indispensable part of our efforts to become climate-neutral by 2050. We will only be able to offset residual emissions if forests and soils continue to absorb carbon from the atmosphere year after year. So it is crucial to maintain and improve this mitigation effect. At the same time, intact ecosystems benefit not only the climate, but also biodiversity, nature conservation and adaptation to climate change.

Details of the agreement

  • The overarching EU target of capturing 310 million tonnes of CO2 is a binding component of the efforts to attain climate neutrality by the middle of the century and to meet the EU’s international commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris agreement.
  • The agreement results in an implicit increase in the level of ambition: according to the European Climate Law (of 2021), only 225 million tonnes from sinks in the LULUCF sector can be included in the calculations to meet the 55% target. The aim of the LULUCF Regulation is to have a natural sink of 310 million tonnes. The difference of 85 million tonnes therefore serves to overshoot the 2030 target by something north of two percentage points.
  • The revision simplifies the LULUCF Regulation and ends its existing imputation system with reference levels in 2025. The new Regulation uses emissions inventories and thus falls into line with the architecture of the Effort Sharing Regulation. In this way, every Member State is obliged to comply with a target to improve its sink in proportion to its land area compared with the 2016-18 reference period. The EU-wide improvement is to attain a combined 42 million tonnes in 2030. The new version of the Regulation also stipulates that the Member States are to provide evidence of their overall improvements in carbon capture in the 2026-2029 period.
  • In order to attain the target, the Member States are allowed to make limited use of reserves and to negotiate (footprint) credits with one another under certain conditions.
  • Also, the LULUCF Regulation permits the Member States to make exceptions in which emissions can be calculated out of the footprint. These include the occurrence of natural disturbances (e.g. forest fires, disasters), detrimental developments caused by global warming (droughts, aridity) and the consequences of using organic soils.
  • The agreement inserts a governance mechanism into the Regulation which also provides for measures to be taken when a Member State does not achieve its national target in the second period.
  • Negotiations on other dossiers like European emissions trading (ETS), emissions trading for buildings and transport and the Social Climate Fund are to be completed by the end of the year.
  • The Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission had already agreed on the CO2 limits and the Effort Sharing Regulation on 27 October and 8 November respectively.