EU seeks tighter CO2 grip on farms, forests -draft

Fri Feb 24, 2012 7:44am EST

* No binding targets or inclusion in EU ETS

* Forest campaigners say step in the right direction

By Francesco Guarascio and Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, Feb 24 (Reuters) - The EU forestry and farming sectors will have to monitor and report from 2013 any changes to land use that could affect greenhouse gas emissions as part of the bloc's measures to curb climate change, under a draft law seen by Reuters.

The proposal, expected to be published officially next week, does not go as far as setting firm targets for limiting land-use change.

Environmentalists said, however, it would be a step in the right direction, especially due to the fact it did not rely on the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to tackle greenhouse gases generated by land-use change.

Years of talks within the European Union and at international climate change conferences have struggled to deliver detail on how to protect forested land.

The EU needs to prevent loss of forests as part of its commitments to the U.N. process on tackling climate change as well as its own goal of cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

One of its prime tools for tackling carbon emissions from industry and power generation is the ETS, and the bloc had debated whether land use, land use change and forestry (known by the acronym LULUCF) should be covered by the scheme.

Instead, the draft proposes that member states draw up accounts on afforestation, reforestation, deforestation, forest management, crop land management and grazing land management connected to carbon, methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

Member states are also required to submit action plans to limit or reduce emissions, and the Commission may issue recommendations "with a view to enhance member states' efforts".

"Member states shall take due account of the Commission's findings," it adds.

Non-governmental organisation FERN, which tracks EU policies especially on forests, welcomed the "stand-alone" approach.

"It's much better than a link to the ETS, which was set up to deal with fossil fuel. Its accounting requirements therefore would never have been suitable," said Jutta Kill, carbon trading and climate change campaigner at FERN.

As a "one-way road", fossil fuels, which only generate carbon, required very different rules from the "two-way road" of land and forestry, which absorb as well as add to emissions, she said. (Additional reporting by Charlie Dunmore, editing by Jane Baird)