Wetlands International welcomes the European Parliament’s vote on rules for accounting for greenhouse gas emissions and removals resulting from agriculture and forestry. Emissions and removals from cropland and grazing land management will have to be accounted for, but accounting for wetland drainage and rewetting remains voluntary.
The European Parliament voted today to establish common rules for the accounting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals resulting from activities related to land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). The Parliament significantly improved the European Commission’s proposal by introducing mandatory accounting of emissions and removals from cropland and grazing land management.
In December 2011, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed new rules for the accounting of GHG emissions and removals from LULUCF in countries which are party to the Kyoto Protocol. Today’s vote in the European Parliament transposes those decisions to EU law. However, the Parliament went further than the 2011 Durban decision, which only imposed mandatory accounting of emissions and removals from forest management.
Organic soils responsible for most emissions from agricultural soils
Organic soils (peatlands) constitute less than 5% of the total cropland and grazing land area, but they contribute more than 75% of all cropland and grazing land emissions in the European Union (EU). It is estimated that emissions from draining and degrading peatlands correspond to approximately 4% of the EU’s emissions in 2010. The EU is currently the second biggest source of peat-related CO2 emissions in the world.
The European Parliament’s vote provides an incentive to improve the management of cropland and grassland, particularly those containing organic soils. However, the Parliament did not succeed in convincing the EU Council of Ministers to include mandatory accounting of emissions from other wetlands as well. It is now up to Member States to voluntarily account for emissions and removals resulting from wetland drainage and rewetting.
Further work is needed to properly address emissions from wetlands
As a compromise, the European Parliament agreed that as soon as IPCC guidance on wetlands becomes available, the EU should advocate for further action on wetlands at the UNFCCC level. The Parliament also argues that in the future comprehensive accounting of all lands would be desirable. The Parliament’s decision also requires Member States to report on their actions to increase removals of carbon and decrease emissions of greenhouse gases from forests and soils.
Accounting of LULUCF emissions will start in 2013 and continue until 2021, but LULUCF emissions and removals will not count towards the EU’s emission reduction commitments. Afterwards, the EU will consider options for including this sector in the EU efforts to reduce its overall carbon footprint.
The law will now go to the Council of Ministers for adoption, after which they will be published in the EU’s Official Journal and will enter into force.