Forests ‘forgotten’ in EU climate policy, MEPs warn

A Swedish MEP has said that the EU climate policy package’s failure to address the role of forests in curbing global warming was a “major mistake”, reports the EurActiv website.

Liberal MEP Lena Ek made her comments during a meeting of the European Parliament’s Industry Committee.

Her views were seconded by Irish Christian Democrat MEP Avril Doyle, responsible for shepherding a proposal to revise the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) through Parliament.

The Irish MEP said that Europe would have “no credibility” in international climate negotiations without some sort of forest-related policy framework.

Ms Doyle added that he wanted the issue “stitched through” both the EU ETS and a separate proposal on “effort sharing”, which spells out member states’ commitments to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in sectors not covered by the ETS.

Deforestation is widely considered to be a key driver of global warming since tropical and other forests absorb CO2, thus mitigating the effects of emissions on the climate. But EU policymakers are struggling to define rules to keep trees standing.

Mechanisms to prevent deforestation – by giving landowners EU ETS credits for leaving forests standing, for example – were not included in the Commission’s climate proposals, put forward on 23 January.

This was due to apparent difficulties related to measuring emissions from these sectors with accuracy.

But the issue was also not “on the radar screen” of officials working on the EU ETS proposal in the EU executive’s environment service (DG Environment).

A push to use biomass for biofuels in transport or in home heating means that forests, and the land on which they stand, have a higher and more immediate economic value if exploited for energy-related purposes than if left standing.

The Commission attempted to address the issue in its 2006 Forest Action Plan, but environmentalists, and industries that use forests for non-energy purposes, are increasingly worried that Europe’s energy thirst will put too much pressure on forests and that the non-binding action plan is too weak to prevent an overshoot.

Source: Euractiv website

Date: 11/09/2008

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