LULUCF

and its potential to support achieving the EU climate goals

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On 14 July 2021, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a revised Regulation concerning Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). The proposal is part of the Fit for 2030’ legislative package.

The Renew Europe Group is a driving force in the European Parliament for raised climate ambition in line with the Paris Agreement, and is determined to reduce emissions, strengthen CO2 removals and enhance the natural carbon sink to achieve the climate objectives. Farmers and forest owners are in a key position to contribute to the efforts to tackle climate change, and we can bring them along in the transition by providing effective incentives.

In this webinar, the debate will focus on the accounting system foreseen and the proposed sink targets and their impacts (social, economic and environmental). The experts will also showcase best practices on the carbon removal market that already exist and explain how they work. The Commission will explain how the carbon removals from the Carbon Farming Initiative will be introduced to LULUCF accounting system. Finally, the debate will address the 2035 target of carbon neutral agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU’).


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Question to Mr. Asikainen from Kelsey Perlman, Fern

What is the potential across Europe for improving forestry practices in forests available for wood production to increase overall biodiversity and carbon stored/ha?

Response from Mr. Asikainen:

There is a great overall potential to increase biodiversity supporting features in forests available for wood supply in Europe. However, the concrete actions must be fitted to the local ecosystems defined by climatic, soil and land use features from boreal to dry subtropical forests found in EU. In addition, actions should be (cost) efficient. There must be scientific evidence that certain actions lead to verified improvement of biodiversity e.g. recovery of rare species.

Question to Mr. Asikainen Michal Wiezik, MEP

You presented on the need for active forestry management in order to secure the existence of forest. Thus is in stark contrast with the obvious fact of the existence of primary forests, which are determined by long-term existence without any intervention. Could you please corrobate on this apparent discrepancy?

Response from Mr. Asikainen:

Active forest management is necessary in the forests available for wood supply to reduce e.g. devastating fires, wind damages and insect outbreaks. In addition, protected areas are needed. However, in changing climate there may arise needs for some management actions also in protected forests e.g. to prevent the spreading of invasive species and reduce spruce dominance in areas, where deers etc. hinder the regeneration of broadleaved species.

Question to Mr. Asikainen from Edita Vysna, APA Wiezik

Could you elaborate on the alleged great substitution effect presented by LUKE institute? If the share of renewable energies increases and GHG emissions decrease, we should change the baseline, which is basing itself on the energy mix, no? Then the potential substitution effect and thus the GHG mitigation potential through wood products decreases, doesn’t it?

Response from Mr. Asikainen:

I agree. The baseline changes as alternate energy production and material related emissions decrease. In addition, also bio-based systems can greatly improve their efficiency in material use and energy generation.

Question to the Commission/Mr. Asikainen from Artur Runge-Metzger

How could a carbon sink of 490 Mt/a by 2030 - as proposed by MEP Niinistö in his draft report - be accomplished? What would it mean for the management of agricultural land, forest land and wetlands in the coming years?

Response from Mr. Asikainen:

The time window (8 years) to make such a change is in land use sector is extremely short. Millions of European landowners should change the land management and massive mobilization of manpower and machines should take place (if truly efficient actions were found). According to my current understanding, this target can not be reached without a significant reduction of food and timber production in EU.

Question to the Commission/Mr. Asikainen from Edita Vysna, APA Wiezik

I don’t quite understand why the target is just 310Mton, claiming that after that extra cost is 10 EUR/ ton CO2 and exponentially grows.. But CO2 is much more expensive already in ETS.. so if we do not increase the sink because it costs extra 10 EUR every CO2 stored, but then take that biomass from the ecosystem to substitute for a material in the sector where ton CO2 costs 80 EUR, how does it make sense? Or is it a wrong understanding?

Response from Mr. Asikainen:

Other speakers can answer to this question better than myself.

Question to the Commission from Edita Vysna, APA Wiezik

The Commission mentioned lower compliance costs thanks to Copernicus. But can’t be the belowground biomass only estimated via allometric equation from aboveground biomass, and not really measured, thus neither its carbon? If the soil is one of the most important carbon pools, isn’t better and more precise on site monitoring necessary to get the numbers and sink right for soil carbon?

Response from the Commission:

The proposal by the Commission does not attempt to replace in-situ measurements by existing and operational networks, including National Forest Inventories, by Earth Observation. The proposal stresses the role Earth Observation could/should play for land use monitoring that is key for policy implementation and tracking progress. We note that such systems already exists e.g. for compliance checks of payments under the CAP. The key to success will be the intelligent integration of systems monitoring land use practices and land use change from above with field measurements for calibration, validation or parameters that cannot be observed form Space. Besides the higher granularity, increased accuracy and timeliness and better coherence of data across the MS, we also believe that such integrated systems will simplify reporting and lower costs overall.

Below ground living biomass is intrinsically linked to above ground living biomass and is normally estimated by so-called root-to-shoot ratios. Hence a good knowledge about the above-ground carbon stock changes for living biomass is essential to estimate below ground living biomass. Biomass is converted to carbon via a set of country-specific conversion factors, commonly documented in National Inventory Reports accompanying MS GHG inventories. Please note that above and below ground living biomass are reported jointly in the GHG inventory submitted to the UNFCCC Convention reporting. Soil carbon is estimated by soil inventories, nevertheless there are technical means to extrapolate and spatially distribute estimates via geostatistical approaches taking into account remote sensing and ancillary data.

Question to Mr. Stoefs from Artur Runge-Metzger

The IPCC is clear that in order to get to a solution there will have to be continuous and increasing net negative emissions as of mid-century. This will require the smart management of all carbon removals whether they are stored short-, medium or the long-term. A permanent ton of carbon could also be a string of short-term tons of carbon. Why do you seem to exclude the short/medium options from the solution space? PS I hope that you will replace your wooden beams with new wooden beams in order to contribute to maintain the HWP pool for the next 100 years.

Response from the Mr. Stofs:

A string or stock approach (for example, plastic bottles contain carbon and if they are recycled you could have a stable stock) is really problematic. It means burdening the next generation to continue the string you started, and considering temporary storage as equivalent to permanent emissions. This can only lead to greenwashing and overdependence on false climate solutions. If a carbon removal is to be a real removal, it has to be intended to be stored permanently and you need to be able to monitor that. Plastic bottles (or wooding building elements) cannot be monitored with the necessary stringency that is needed for them to be counted towards the EU 2050 target. This is also a challenge for any land sector removals (carbon farming or rewilding) - monitoring these removals will be very challenging - but these solutions have so many non-climate benefits (soil health, biodiversity, water availability etc.) that we need to do them in any case. These MRV requirements are also a key argument against mixing removals and emissions (through the proposed AFOLU sector for example)."

Question to Mr. Vihavainen from Kelsey Perlman, Fern

In general, there is significant uncertainty when measuring substitution effects. At the extremes, building by felling and processing a tree close to the build site without mechanization will generate a very favourable substitution effect, while building using a tree from a highly mechanised chain from the other end of the world could generate higher emissions than the competing material, and therefore a negative substitution effect. How is this obstacle being addressed in the development of methodologies around wood substitution?

Response from Mr. Vihavainen:

Puro.earth always requires all emissions associated with the process to be calculated. These emissions are deducted from the embodied carbon of the building element and only the balance is issued as CO2 Removal Certificates (CORCs). Thus if the raw material is sent from a great distance, the resulting net-negative part will be smaller or non-existent and thus little or no CORCs would be issued.

Open Questions:

from Catherine Chabaud, MEP

In an integrated approach as Mr Vargas mentioned, why don’t you mention wetlands and coastal ecosystems, the blue carbon known as a very productive sink?

from Marine Lecerf

Thank you for your presentations. You are mentioning opportunities related to forests and agriculture, but what about coastal wetlands? We know that these ecosystems are particularly promising.

Response from Mr. Asikainen:

The management of coastal wetlands to capture and store carbon more than today

from Andis Lazdiņš

There are quite many recent studies demonstrating that rewetting may not be associated with reduction of GHG emissions, e.g. LIFE Peatrestore actually ends up with conclusion that rewetting reduces GHG emissions in agricultural land if topsoil is removed (which is also emission). I'm not sure if any reduction was demonstrated in former peat extraction sites. LIFE REstore project demonstrated that in rewetted areas GHG emissions actually are nearly as big as in drained grasslands, which is associated with fluctuation of groundwater level, and the same happens in pristine wetlands. I can understand rewetting as biodiversity targeted measure, but why it is listed as GHG mitigation measure, considering controversial information available.

Response from Mr. Kätterer:

There is evidence from several studies that higher water table in drained organic soils would mitigate CO2 and CH4 emissions (e.g. Evans, C.D., Peacock, M., Baird, A.J. et al. Overriding water table control on managed peatland greenhouse gas emissions. Nature 593, 548–552 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03523-1). However, effects on N2O emissions are highly uncertain and need further studies.

Response from Mr. Asikainen:

The challenge is, as Lazdins says, to control efficiently the water table around the year. Results concerning rewetting need to be confirmed. In addition, there is a great spatial variation depending on the type of wetland.

from Arturs Bukonts

Deforested areas - are we speaking about those areas, which have changed the aim of their usage or, those which have left for natural regeneration?

220112 LULUCF webinar webinar Twitter

15:00 Welcome by the organising MEPs Martin Hojsík, Elsi Katainen, Ivars Ijabs

15:10 Panel I - What are the pathways for realising the European carbon sink targets?

- Mr Christian Holzleitner, European Commission: accounting system & proposed sink target 310 MT

- Mr Antti Asikainen, Executive Vice President, Research, Natural Resources

Institute of Finland: Sink target, wood sourcing and biodiversity.

15:30 Panel II - Carbon removal market - sharing best practices

- Mr Christian Holzleitner, European Commission: carbon removal in the Carbon Farming Initiative and LULUCF accounting system

- Mr Ronald Vargas, Secretary of the Global Soil Partnership, Land and Water Officer, UN Food and Agriculture Organization: recommended management practices to recarbonise global soils

- Mr Antti Vihavainen, CEO, Puro Earth: carbon removal marketplace and how

it works

- Mr Wijnand Stoefs, Policy Officer, Carbon Market Watch

16:10 Panel III - AFOLU and synergies with other policies (CAP, EU Soil Strategy)

- Mr Christian Holzleitner, European Commission: carbon removal target and AFOLU 2035

- Mr Thomas Kätterer, Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural

Science: the potential to reduce AGRI emissions

- Ladislav Miko, Docent in soil biology and ecology, scientist, former DG for

Health and Food Safety in the European Commission

16:40 Q&A

16:55 Conclusion and Closing Remarks

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