BirdLife Europe & Central Asia Press Release - 30 May 2017
One step closer to stopping Climate Change…but not close enough
Today, the ENVI Committee voted on the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) which is setting out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for Member States for the period 2021–2030 and includes the transport, buildings, agriculture and waste management sector, together accounting for almost 60% of total EU emissions. The vote in the ENVI Committee is a significant improvement on the Commission's proposal and takes the EU one step closer to fulfilling its international commitments under the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, the result still falls short of what science says is needed to stabilise the climate at a safer 1.5˚C level of warming.
The amount of emissions from sectors covered by the Effort Sharing Regulation that could be offset by extra emission reductions in the land use sectors, was reduced from 280 million tonnes to 190 million tonnes.
Samuel Lee-Gammage, RSPB: “This was a wise decision. Agriculture has substantial potential to sustainably reduce emissions of both non-CO2 and CO2 gases, through actions such as better management of nutrients, and by protecting and restoring soil carbon. This change will help ensure that this mitigation potential is fulfilled, and that overall EU climate action is strengthened as a result.”
To date, most Member States have had to do little in the way of mitigation in agriculture and land use. However, these sectors will become increasingly important to achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of balancing emissions sources and sinks by 2050. These sectors are also those that have a profound impact on biodiversity across the European Union. Mitigation needn't and must not occur at the expense of the environment. New provisions to promote mitigation planning in agriculture and land use sectors will help Member States to develop their policies in this challenging area, and to promote sustainable mitigation action.
Another improvement is that wetland restoration will now be able to contribute towards these emissions reductions. Wetlands are some of the world's largest stores of carbon and are very important biodiverse habitats; including them makes perfect sense for both the climate and for protecting some of our most cherished species.
For those that care for wildlife, allowing the planting of trees on agricultural land to offset emissions in the sectors covered by the Effort Sharing Regulation, represents a major concern. This could drive harmful changes to important habitats such as biodiversity rich wildflower meadows, which are already under severe pressure across the European Union. Replacing these with biodiversity poor plantations of non-native tree species – often just a single species – could be hugely damaging. Today, an important opportunity was missed to avoid promoting harmful forms of afforestation and support beneficial forms, such as native woodlands planted on biodiversity poor farmland areas.
Currently, the way in which emissions from forestry activities are accounted for means that emissions can increase in reality, but still decrease on paper. In other words, Member States can get credit for doing nothing. Today, the ENVI Committee voted to keep forestry emissions reductions from offsetting emissions in the Effort Sharing Regulation, until these accounting problems have been fixed. In doing so, it has – at least temporarily – stopped worthless credits from forestry watering down climate action in other sectors, which should be commended. However, voting that took place in the AGRI Committee today would undo this good work by further weakening European Union forest accounting rules in the LULUCF Regulation. As a result, forests in the European Union will absorb less and less carbon, and the incentive to reduce emissions in other sectors will be severely undermined, making it more likely that long- term targets will be missed.
Emissions from bioenergy remain a big problem for the EU’s climate ambition and the result of the vote won’t help to ensure that bioenergy use in the sectors covered by the Effort Sharing Regulation truly reduces emissions. The result of the vote will mean that all forms of biomass - without any requirements - are assumed to cause zero emissions under the Regulation, which isn’t a scientifically correct assumption.
For further information, please contact:
Samuel Lee-Gammage, Policy Officer
+44 (0) 7758239151
BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people.
BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States.
With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.